Top critical review
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File under... average
on 24 April 2010
Bob Mould must have thought he might have had a shot at genuine success in 1994. Sugar's debut album "Copper Blue" had charted top ten in the UK album charts in 1992 and had recieved widespread critical praise. Follow up, mini album "Beaster", although much darker, and exploring the singers complex personal emotions, was again seen as a compelling work by a songwriter hitting top form. Grunge bands including Nirvana, Buffalo Tom, Superchunk and Mudhoney held him and former band Husker Du in a near religious regard, Sugar's record label in the UK, Creation, had began to be established as the hippest in Britain. Surely nothing could go wrong could it?
"File Under Easy Listening" or F.U.E.L as fans know it, was secretly turning into a nightmare for Mould. The Album was re-recorded from scratch after an aborted false start and tension btween Mould and bassist Dave Barbe had began to surfice like the ghost of (certain) bands past. Subsquently the resulting finished album released in September 1994 is a mixed bag to say the least.
Listening to the album now I can't help feeling the record is a missed opportunity. Its not that bad, but too many of the songs seem uninspired and lack the invention and spark of "Copper Blue" or "Beaster". It does have its worthwhile moments, "Favorite thing" and "Gee Angel" capture Sugar's familiar driving pop sound and "Believe In What Your Saying" is a nice acoustic ballad, but often this album really plods; "Granny Cool" and "Panama City Motel" are forgettable and dull. Barbe's sole contribution "Company Book" is also surprisingly average, especially as previous B-Side "Diamonds are Halos" showed what he was really capable of. Mould's lifeless production on this record also hold it back. I am convinced that Lou Giordano(who co-produced "Copper Blue" with Mould) or maybe Scott Litt (R.E.M, Replacements) might just have improved the record's sound considerably.
F.U.E.L was Mould's last Sugar album. The record never sold anywhere near as well as hoped and the band split soon after it's release. Mould returned to being a respected cult musician and Creation records finally found huge chart success not long after with five lads from Manchester who played intelligent pop songs with chopping, driven guitars and emotional lyrics. It's a funny old world.