The re-release of Sugar’s Copper Blue isn’t just for folks who loved it the first time around. It’s also for 20-somethings like me who have a post-1992 knowledge gap. Recently renewed interest in the 80’s underground and hardcore scenes – Michael Azerrad’s "Our Band Could Be Your Life" playing a large role in this – provided many an education on the pioneers that led to Nirvana’s breakout Nevermind including Bob Mould’s Hüsker Dü.
With so much pre-Nirvana music to dig into, it was easy to ignore the ripples it sent into 90’s. I had no idea about Sugar and no idea about the amazing Copper Blue. Thankfully, Merge Records changed that.
Copper Blue sounds like the missing link between 80’s indie rock, grunge, and 90’s power pop. The melodies are bright and catchy, but delivered with grit and force.
The opening four tracks are relentless rock and roll with big guitar solos and quick tempos. The sunny melodies balance the darker lyrics in a way that rewards both rocking out and deep listening.
After the breathless start, the opening shuffle and restrained guitar of “Hover Dam” come as a shock, but the melody is an instant hook. It’s one of the most compelling tracks on the record.
With four B-sides, 1993’s Beaster EP, and a full live concert, the Copper Blue reissue is more evidence that few labels can match Merge Records when it comes to quality reissues.
The live recordings are brilliant and filled with adrenaline. The album versions of “Changes” and “Hover Dam” exceed 5 minutes, but Sugar blows through them in 4 minutes or less. It wouldn’t be a surprise if listeners preferred some of the live versions to the originals.
Copper Blue is a masterpiece that doesn’t feel one bit dated. If it were coming out for the first time, it would be just as awesome. Copper Blue should be required listening for any fan of Bob Mould, indie rock, and power pop.
The Copper Blue reissue is out today via Merge Records.