I wish I could remember the exact year but I had one opportunity to see one of my all-time favorite bands Sugar live in concert. The band played an ear shattering show at The Electric Ballroom in support of its sophomore effort File Under: Easy Listening. There was a band opening that night that had a song by the name of “Slowly, Slowly” that I had been hearing on alternative radio (probably KUKQ). I dug the song but to be honest had not paid a whole lot of attention to the band up to that point.
Once Magnapop ended its set I was a huge fan. I was blown away by the power, a mixture of the frenetic energy of punk rock meshed with a strong pop aesthetic. The band played an unbelievable set and I can remember telling my buddy I was with that night something to the effect that Sugar was going to have be on big time to top that.
Okay, that was idiotic remark I agree, but that is just how good Magnapop was on that evening. What truly floored me was the fact the vocalist (Linda Hopper) and guitarist (Ruthie Morris) were two females while the bassist and drummer were both males. I grabbed one of the band’s t-shirts from the merch table and the very next day I made a point of buying Hot Boxing, the album the band was touring in support of at the time. Once I did a little research I realized just how out-of-touch I was in terms of the genius of Magnapop. It turns out none other than Bob Mould himself produced the album which explained the band opening for Sugar. More impressive was the fact the band’s early demos were produced by Michael Stipe. Yeah, that singer from R.E.M.
I had one more opportunity to see the band, headlining a show back at the Electric Ballroom in support of the next album they released Rubbing Doesn’t Help. Once again they absolutely destroyed that night. It is unfortunate that label problems and the standard personnel problems led to the band going on hiatus in 1997. Hopper and Morris continued to play together and periodically Magnapop resurfaced with various line-ups, including a 2011 reunion show of the original line-up to benefit the record store Criminal Records.
Dusting off Hot Boxing was a lot of fun, a great reminder of what stellar power pop can sound like. Hard to believe that album was released twenty years ago, not hard to believe though that the album has that good of staying power. It still smokes.
Check out this clip for “Lay it Down”, my favorite song from Hot Boxing. Stellar.
Album Inspiration: Hot Boxing