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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 June 2012
Beaster. A Beast at Easter. The Dark Side of Copper Blue. All of these subtitles and more came alongside the second offering from Sugar. Recorded at the same time as Copper Blue the darker and much more religious album came out the following March. It could probably be summed up in one word. Brutal. This extended edition contains the original CD release, a set of liner notes covering the album and where the band were at during the time of releasing the album and a DVD (of which more later).

The album itself is short (six tracks including an instrumental). Its bookended by two beautifully sweet pieces of music which would lull you into a false sense of security. However, the four tracks in the middle are full of anger, heavy riffs and quite exhilarating music. Tilted is thrashy and is a full on thrill ride of a track. Judas Cradle (yes those religious references start here) slows down proceedings with a dirty, grungey almost dirge like quality that just screams at you. Then we go into the maelstrom. JC Auto - yes JC stands for that religious figure and yes its that blatant in its religious references. If you were in any doubt from the album cover of blood stained rope you won't be after hearing this. Its so cathartic a track that you can feel the demons being exorcised. It can only be followed by Feeling Better - a track of great melody and noise that is the redemption of the piece - except it really isn't if you listen to the lyrics. The remastering has enhanced it and I love the feel of this version. Its as raw as ever.

The accompanying liner notes are not quite as detailed as the Copper Blue ones but they do give some of the info behind this album. The DVD is an odd one however. The live tracks from the Great Expectations gig don't include any of the Beaster numbers. Dave Barbe comments on this show being a stinker. I was there and it wasn't a pretty sight (Bob Mould had to avoid flying melons and the start of the footage is the tail end of his rant). However, its better here than it was on the day (although I still haven't found myself in the crowd). The Tilted video is also there - but is far from their best promo.

Overall this is a great album, well remastered with a half decent DVD. It's an album that has really grown on me over the years and as a piece its really up there. Its just too brutal and cathartic that its painful to listen to at times.
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on 31 August 2003
As someone once said, the blues isn't about feeling better. It's about making everyone else feel worse.
Horror stories are still told about how, during the course of making this record, Bob Mould, Sugar's legendary front-man, incapacitated himself, actually not being able to speak. As Bob writes in the album's sleeve-notes, "I thought that this material was going to be a bit difficult for some people to comprehend ... now I'm not sure what to think, so it's time to let go of it".
So this record represents a release, a getting-it-out-there, such that everyone else can sort it out. For one thing, I'm glad I'm not Bob Mould. It really does sound like sheer hell in there. The Lord only knows which demons Bob was wrestling with, but it sounds like an act of demonic genocide more than a clean fight.
Take the smooth, shiny bits away from "Copper Blue" and you've got "Beaster". It is not, however, as frighteningly grotesque as the band prepared everyone for before its release, what with their references to an album so impossibly dark and frighteningly heavy that they couldn't bring themselves to listen to it.
The album takes off every so gently, with a wash of synth and acoustic guitar that brings to mind an air-balloon gently rising up into a clear blue sky, on the ethereal, cathedral choir-boy mantra of "Come Around" - only to knock your front teeth clean out with "Tilted". If you've ever seen the film of "Lawnmower Man", the Steven King novel, listening to "Tilted" on full volume is like having layers of your brain shaved off with that same lawnmower. "I only do these things to freak you out", screams Bob as he fires-up his lawnmower guitar for the most technically competent and ear-meltingly brilliant rock guitar solo ever to be committed to tape. Question: can someone kindly explain to me how the guitar can be played this well? Trust me; Sir Bob of Mould has absolutely no competition in the air-guitar-God stakes. I don't much care for Satriani, Vai, Van Halen or Malmsteen or any other of that breed of guitar-god, but you can bet your every last dollar that they sure as Hell know who Bob Mould is. (Incidentally, I am alone in being reminded by this track of "Fortune Teller" on "Copper Blue"...?)
We cruise into the ragged, apocalyptic ending ruins of "Tilted" - replete with preacher-man ending, reminiscent of Ministry's "Psalm 69" - and we're watching Bob rolling around, up-close in a padded-cell of religious torment, only to roll straight on into "Judas Cradle". This is the sound of a man who has cried himself raw down in the dungeons of his soul, pleading for some kind of deliverance on a Biblical scale as he begs "throw me back into the fire, peel the skin away from bones, as the smoke keeps rising higher as the Judas cradle moans". This is Bob's darkest point and every carefully-honed second of it is the sound of a man teetering on the edge, a man screaming at reality itself, a man who's perhaps gone beyond the edge but somehow got it back together enough to unleash this pivotally demented piece of music on the world. This is the savage scream of birth of his worst schizoid nightmare, the moment when he has is coughing up bile, such is the intensity of his despair - but pain has never felt this good before.
Perhaps the Messiah heeds his call, because next up is "J C Auto", which provides deliverance on a grand scale. By the time we hit track four, we are really motoring. We're not scared of anything - we're taking on the world and we're zooming off into power-chord heaven. Exactly a decade after its release, this is the track that stands out above all others. All the clichés about hairs standing on end were invented for this song, and just one moment in particular; yes, the silvery, joyous, climactic guitar solo, just before Bob launches into the gibbering, ranting, screamed, despairing chorus where he screams "Jesus Christ" in various ways over and over again. It's the moment of religious ecstasy, the moment at which Bob's despair crystallises action and makes him looking inside himself for his last reserves of inner strength. You might even argue that the whole album is just a scaffolding for these six glorious minutes of the most intensely, euphorically delirious heavy guitar tune-smithery that have ever been penned. Every glorious moment of this song screams passion, devotion and authenticity and, despite the most utter, dreadful, gut-wrenching despair, Bob's working it all out ("I need some time to reconcile / I need some time to heal a while"). Musically, we're rooting around in the same territory as The Pixies and AC/DC but any comparison is almost as much of an affront as it is irrelevant - because none of those other bands needs to exist once you've squeezed "J C Auto" in through your ears. It's just utterly, totally wonderful and makes me weep and smile all at once.
Even Bob knows that "J C Auto" is pure purgative magic, because the next song is titled "Feeling Better". We're back in conventional "Copper Blue"-era territory here - and the raucous synth line that could almost have been pilfered straight from The Cure's "Hot Hot Hot!!!" is a clue that we're powering away from the desolate trilogy of "Tilted", "Judas Cradle" and "J C Auto", but it's not quite over for Bob as he taunts "hope you're feeling better / I'm not better yet" ... "I gave you everything I had / there's nothing left for me to say / I guess it's time to walk away". Musically this is the weakest point on the album, but we can smilingly forgive Sugar that as the three tracks that have gone before will never be bettered by any other rock band, ever; period. Honourable mentions go to Sugar themselves for "Gift" and "Your Favourite Thing" on the follow-up album, "File Under Easy Listening" (ha! the irony!), but we're talking an altogether different experience by then.
The finale, "Walking Away" picks up where "Come Around" left off and feels like the Commendation from the end of a funeral service. Slightly wonky-sounding strings and organs provide a washed backdrop as Bob sings "walking away back to you I do", as if he's given up on his angst and is reduced to embracing the person who caused it all, but the hope is that poor old Bob has sorted it all out and has genuinely figured out how to leave all the pain and angst behind.
This is big, serious, epic stuff. Please leave in hushed, stunned silence.
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Recorded at the same time as "Copper Blue", "Beaster" is a short collection of six songs, sometimes described as an EP, and I've even heard it described as a mini-musical. Apparently Bob Mould had looked at the songs he had written for the debut Sugar album and realised that these six shared some common themes and didn't really fit alongside the others, so he recorded this as an angry counterpart to the more chart-friendly "Copper Blue" with the intention of releasing it soon after the main album.

It's an incredible collection of songs, from the loud yet beautiful almost-instrumental of "Come Around", through the thrash of "Tilted", the roar of "Judas Cradle" and the phenomenal "JC Auto", to the jauniter "Feeling Better" and the elegiac "Walking Away". Rockier than "Copper Blue" the quality never dips, and it is one of those rare albums that you feel the need to play again as soon as it finishes.

For the remaster the package is a little more slight than the "Copper Blue" set. Once again there are multiple disks, but this time you have the remastered album which sounds perfect, and a short second DVD featuring a few tracks from a live set at Finsbury Park. It isn't great and it is very short, so you can stick with the main album and not really miss out. As with "Copper Blue" there is an excellent booklet, once again featuring interviews with the members of the band and others, and it is a fascinating read.

All in all this is a fine companion to the "Copper Blue" remaster, and for me represents Sugar's finest hour.
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5 songs of religious angst and power with a final organ led ascent back into the light. This is the story of a man who lost his faith and regained it, set to the most power of power chords imaginable. Utterly thrilling stuff.
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on 25 November 2003
Phew. Sugar's first album Copper Blue took some beating in the guitar-frenzy stakes (particularly the rockier stuff on what us quaint old-fashioned types used to call Side 2 - The Slim, Fortune Teller, Slick, etc.), but this EP-length follow-up cranks the guilt and rage (oh yes, and the guitars as well) up to 11.
Bookended by two shorter, quieter numbers (Come Around and Walking Away) are a quartet of songs of which three (Tilted, Judas Cradle, Feeling Better) are merely excellent, and one (JC Auto) is one of the most thrilling slabs of turbocharged power-chord rifferama ever committed to tape. Imagine The Act We Act from Copper Blue (which this resembles musically, to my untrained ear at least) injected with a dangerous overdose of industrial-strength horse steroids and then plugged into the mains. Bob Mould appears to be claiming to be Jesus at various points as well, though it's hard to tell over the noise. Awesome stuff.
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on 19 November 1999
Buy the biggest hifi you can find, put it on full volume and go straight to J C Auto, the greatest power-guitar tune ever written.
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on 22 January 2004
I've just bought this on CD having originally owned it ten years ago in the days when I was still buying cassettes, so to hear it again for the first time in ages was fantastic - in fact it was even better that I remember.
I've always been a fan of Bob's work, through Husker Du, solo stuff and Sugar, though I'll be the first to admit that not everything he's put his name to is a masterpiece. He's an artist who sometimes misses the target, sure; but when he hits it jeez he really, really hits it.
"Beaster" is an atomic bomb of a record, a sonic assault of the senses and emotions that transcends it's hissy production to become one of the most powerful and cathartic rock albums of the 90's. Only Nirvana could equal this kind of elemental soul purging in 1993.
Kicking off with the almost shoegazey "Come Around" the listener is lulled into a fuzzy wall of warm, acoustic/ electric melody, all scuffed, shimmering chords and spiralling vocals. It builds to a gentle climax before ending on a sustained note of feedback.
Then nothing can quite prepare you for the way "Tilted" rips suddenly, violently and unexpectently, out of the speakers and roars into your brain, splitting your skull into a thousand pieces like a catastrophic earthquake tearing apart the landscape. Trust me this is more fun than it sounds. Here Sugar create an impossibly layered wall of pure rage that rocks harder than...well pretty much anything, ever. Catharsism more pure than almost anything you will have heard, "Tilted" hits so impossibly hard you feel like you've had a religious experience all of your own.
From the off, Bob is clearly not a happy chappy. And we're all the better for that.
"Judas Cradle" wrenches itself from a mire of wailing feedback at "Tilted"s close and stomps furiously into view, a howling plea for redemption screamed into the abyss. "JC Auto" cranks things up even further, if that's possible, culminating in a avalanche of yelps of "I'm not your Jesus Christ". This is real rock music; primal, intense and utterly compelling.
"Feeling Better" lightens the tone only slightly, and whilst it initially feels slight after the previous three tracks it's joys are revealed upon repeated plays. Then the haunting, cheap-synth elegy "Walking Away", plainitive and naive, soothes us out of the dungeon.
"Beaster" is not merely an EP, it's a mini album; and I consider it superior to all of Sugar's other records. This is Bob Mould culminating all the intense melodic fury he'd fashioned over the years into one mini concept album of breathtaking genius.
Not one for the faint hearted, mind.
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on 9 January 2014
I can't add anything substantial to the subject particularly not on an intellectual level but I would say that next time your head is full of s*** and you can't make any sense of it instead of taking up arms put on Beaster. The s*** will mostly likely still be there if you check again later but it will have been blasted well in its place.
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VINE VOICEon 30 July 2009
I remember when i got the original vinyl version of Beaster on its initial release in 1993 getting home playing it and thinking "Blimey .....Bob sounds really ****** off. " Make no mistake whatever demons Bob Mould was battling are well truly given a good six stringed mauling on Beaster. I was playing the CD version ( i still have the vinyl by the way) in my bedroom when my eldest son wandered in and enquired what in the name of all that is holy ( or something like that ) i was playing now ? "Son " i replied , adopting that portentous but reverential tone that parents adopt when they feel they are about to impart something of great importance. "Son.. this is guitar music with the brakes off , hurtling down the hill and prepared to smash through the safety railings of taste in a tumult of mangled metal, rebar, sparks and concrete". To which he left the room looking slightly bewildered, no doubt to listen to his Michael Jackson CD.
The songs for Beaster were actually recorded at the same sessions that gave us the wondrous Copper Blue but it is almost as if Bob Mould had two albums at once in mind for Beaster is a complete different .....errr beast to it's predecessor . Its a darker suffocating dense album with wispy psychedelic undertones but as is usual with Bob Mould there are depths of melodic intensity . Take "Judas Cradle" which is enveloped in screeching tendrils and coarse howls of guitar but each intertwining round the monstrous central riff has a delicious melodious bent of it's own .
It's this ability to meld the cacophonous with the ear for a cracking tune that marks Bob Mould as an extraordinary song writer. Not that every single track on Beaster is an all out miasma of blurred chords and angst fuelled howling. "Come Around " is almost hypnotic while "Walking Away " utilises keyboards that could have recorded in some magnificent gothic cathedral. The same cannot be said for the gnarly chords of "JC Auto " ( In which Mould sarcastically casts himself as some modern messiah ) or the strident rock riffs of "Feeling Better " whose keening keyboards wouldn't sound out of place in a Van Halen song but do not be put off by my rather spurious light hearted comparison.
A truly great rock album, Beaster sounds like much of the finest music produced, very much like catharsis .Catharsis through a blood flecked fret board. The cleansing of a soul in some kind of torment. Hope this album did make you feel better Bob . It sure works a treat on me. Maybe even a puzzled thirteen year old boy will come to appreciate it's coruscating genius one day ?
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on 16 October 2000
Often when people think of Sugar they immediately think Copper Blue which I think is a great is a great shame as Beaster is often forgotten about.
Although it is a mini album (6 tracks) i still think it is one of the classic power guitar albums of our time up their with Nevermind. It is on the whole slightly rawer and grittier with a harder edge than Copper Blue. The album opens with "Come Around" an acoustic led melodic song similar to "If I can't change your mind" from Copper Blue.Though its track 2 "Tilted" that gets things rocking with an amazing power chord drenched verse and a rather fine solo.Then there is the slightly slower "Judas Cradle" which begins with screaming feedback before kicking into a an amazingly catchy song which will have you humming the chorus for months. Following that is the albums best "JC Auto" which has to fight with "Teen Spirit" as one of the greatest power guitar tunes EVER! its an over 6 minute epic with its thundering drums and power guitars tharshing like its their last song. Next is the pop based "Feeling Better" with a similar formula to the tracks on Copper Blue with some keyboards. The album ends on a rather strange and spooky note with the organ based "Walking Away" which strangely fits at the end of the album.
If you are reading this review you probably have Copper Blue so I recommend you get this album ASAP. But if you are into Nirvana, Foo Fighters etc I think this is a great place to start getting into the most underated guitar bands ever Sugar.
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