Holy mackerel, did I read that post on the official Bob Mould Facebook page right on January 11 that he is going to play “Copper Blue” in its entirety February 24 at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco? Oh my …
Folks, there are records that have been created over the years that had an incredible influence on me, maybe not from the perspective of inspiring me to create music of my own but albums that helped shaped my philosophy and path in life. Never Mind the Bollocks from the Sex Pistols. Nevermind from Nirvana. This is the Voice from Agent Orange. Murder in a Foreign Place from M.I.A. Rocket to Russia from the Ramones. Ocean Rain from Echo and the Bunnymen. There are several albums in my collection that I consider to be bigger favorites of mine, but this post is about music that has shaped my life. And one of those albums has to be the debut from one of my all-time favorite bands, Sugar.
Copper Blue ranks as my all-time favorite debut album and is a disc I would include in my all-time Top Ten. It is an album that sounds as fresh today as it did twenty years ago, an album that still goes for the jugular in ferocious, yet melodic fashion and never makes me feel old.
I grew up a fan of Husker Du and was seriously bummed when that legendary punk rock band pulled the plug and hung it up. They were labeled a hardcore band but the work they created took punk rock to a level that the restraints of that genre could not contain. The last two albums the band made for SST Records, New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig have to be considered two of punk rock’s landmark achievements. Husker Du made the move to major label Warner Brothers and released the very good Candy Apple Grey and the good but not Husker Du great Warehouse: Songs and Stories. Then it was all over, although the tension between drummer/vocalist Grant Hart, bassist Greg Norton and Mould had been building for some time.
Bob Mould created two very good solo releases after the demise of the Huskers, Workbook and Black Sheets of Rain. Very good albums but I missed the tension, ferocity and gnarl of the guitar from the past. All this changed in September 1992 when Copper Blue was released on Rykodisc Records.
I had not purchased the album before seeing the video for the first single from the album “Helpless”. I watched it on MTV’s 120 Minutes, liked the song but it did not blow me away as anything particularly special. My somewhat apathetic attitude about that track caused some delay in getting the album, but it was Bob Mould so I knew sooner or later I would own the album. I had no idea what I was in store for when I finally came home with the disc one day.
“The Act We Act” leads off the album and it took all of about five seconds for me to realize I was playing a truly special disc. Bob’s guitar was back with a vengeance and the first two lines of the song, “I’m watching you walk, As you walk that distant way” were classic Mould writing and delivery all the way. Today this incredible track ranks as my favorite on the album, an exceptional lead track to an exceptional album.
As good as that was the second track “A Good Idea” with one of my favorite bass lines of all-time delivered by former Mercyland bassist David Barbe was even more impressive at the time. That bass hook along with Mould’s creepy work on the guitar set the foundation for a truly awesome piece of work.
There was not one sub par track on the entire album. Bob Mould wrote all the music for Copper Blue, adeptly mixing slower tempo tunes such as “The Slim” with brutal up-tempo songs such as “Fortune Teller”. Latter period Husker Du began to showcase the more melodic side of Bob Mould. Tracks like “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” highlighted that characteristic to perfection.
One listen to that album had an immediate impact on how I felt aggressive music should sound. My belief that aggression had to mean guttural screaming, a deafening decibel level and a 100mph tempo were completely eliminated. Copper Blue caused me to realize that mid-tempo music with pop hooks could still peel paint off the walls.
I have been through several copies of this disc over the years, simply because it is one of those records that I can always reach for when I simply want to hear an album that is spectacular from start to finish. There is a reason NME rated Copper Blue its #1 album for 1992.
Enough of the self-history lesson and back to the original reason for this post. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of Copper Blue (now I do feel old) Bob Mould will be joined by bassist Jason Narducy from Verbow and drummer Jon Wurster from Superchunk to deliver Copper Blue in its entirety for the first time ever. This show will be a part of the 20th Noise Pop Festival and will take place Friday, February 24 at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. Yes, there will be other artists at this festival but I don’t even care at this point. My focus is 100% on making sure I figure out a way to get to this show.
I saw Sugar play once years ago during the File Under Easy Listening tour at the Electric Ballroom in Tempe. That was one of the loudest concerts I have ever been to. It was also one of the best. I did not see Bob Mould play again until 2009. I saw him three times that year: March in Minneapolis at the Varsity Theatre; April at Coachella; October in Seattle at Neumos. All great performances, all incredible nights of seeing one of my idols play live.
Yes, this show is a must for me and I feel very comfortable saying it should be the concert of the year. That 2009 Coachella performance was my top show for that year.
If you have never listened to Copper Blue PLEASE pick up a copy! The album has stood the test of time and any artist today that aspires to create melodic indie rock with a heavy punk edge needs to listen to this album to learn what the right formula is.
Someone pinch me, I still cannot believe this show happens in 26 days …
Bob Mould Band performing “The Act We Act” at Coachella 2009 – Really bummed I can’t find myself in this video!