Sugar likes it loud, but toned it down for 'Easy Listening'

November 11, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Bob Mould has no trouble describing the sound of the new Sugar album, "File Under Easy Listening."

"It's ridiculously a guitar record," he says, over the phone from his Minneapolis home. "There is a lot of different textures going on that are just a lot of different layers and a lot of different harmonic treatments going on. With [the first album,] 'Copper Blue,' the guitars were a little restrained. On this record, they're wide open."

That Mould likes his guitars loud will come as no surprise to his fans. It was the buzz-saw slash of his guitar that gave Husker Du its inimitable edge, while the sound on his second solo album, "Black Sheets of Rain," made even the Huskers seem subtle.

Since forming Sugar in 1991, though, Mould's reputation for guitar crankage reached epic proportions, with the amplifiers turned so high on the band's first tour that the sound was almost visible.

"It's a little more sane now," he says of the current tour. "Sugar was getting sort of a bad rep for being way too loud. I'm aware of it. It's down a little bit this time. It's much more reasonable."

Why does he like it so loud? Some of it has to do with the sheer physical sensation of standing in front of a roaring amp stack. "When you get that stuff drilling you in the back for an hour and a half, you're going to keep moving," he says. "It's also really important to get the proper sustain off the instrument. You have to get some pretty good volume going to get that piece of wood vibrating right."

But Mould agrees that too much guitar makes it hard to hear the vocals, and that's a problem when the combination of words and music is as important as it is in Sugar's music.

Mould is particularly proud of the way the lyrics and music work together on "File Under Easy Listening." He describes one song, "What You Want It to Be," as "a great exercise in everything in the world standing still at one time. It's not meant to make you dance. It's meant to be exactly as plodding as it is on the record, because that's what the story is -- a complete, absolute suspension of time."

Then there's "Panama City Motel," which he describes as "a whole new step" for the band. "That was the trickiest song to record of the whole batch, because the track has such a damp feel," he says. "It's really humid sounding to me, with the percussion and the way that the instruments are treated. It really has a deep, wet feel to it. It's an interesting tale. Interesting series of tales, actually. Three different places."

Don't try to get Mould to explain what that tale is about, though, because he prefers that listeners have their own ideas about his songs. "I'd much rather have people discuss what they think the songs mean amongst themselves than ask me, because I think everybody's interpretation, unless it's totally off base, is important," he says.

That's one reason why Mould -- who has become quite a computer buff in recent years -- refuses to participate in on-line discussions about his band, like the Sugar Soda Berkeley mailing list on the Internet.

"I try to stay out of that discussion group, because I don't want to be the authority figure," he explains. "If I go on there, then it's like, 'Oh, Bob is the overlord, and here's the right answer.' People are really looking at the songs and interpreting things. And you know, it's good. I think that's real important."


When: Thursday, Nov. 17, 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.)

Where: Hammerjacks

Tickets: $17.50

Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets; (410) 659-7625 for info

A taste of Sugar

To hear excerpts from Sugar's "File Under Easy Listening," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6239 after you hear the greeting.

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