Copper Blue 20 years old this summer

This past monday I was going to write some words on what Copper Blue by Bob Mould’s then band “Sugar” means to me, but I got distracted by the Grammys. It did have some relevance in the end, but it wasn’t what I was going to write about then. – Back in 1992 when I was finding out that I loved music, but was still finding out the beginnings of my taste, I would buy a variety of music magazines / music weeklies, often with a free cassette, so I could check out some tracks, and no doubt then, considered my music collection increased. These days I still buy Mojo magazine, but that point is distraction here. One such cassette from a magazine in those earlier times contained a track called “Changes” by a band I’d never heard of called Sugar. Back then there were lots of bands (especially Indie), that I had never heard of so it was nothing new in that regard. However “Changes” was one of those tracks that was different. It’s opening melody just stood out. It was guitar music but not like the hair metal or fret w*nking, of similar ilk to most eighties rock bands, nor was it the melodies of pop bands like the Smiths. This was a little more dirty sounding, a little more raw and basic (plus at this time I was still yet to hear Nirvana, which followed shortly after). But it felt real in a doable sense, and it rocked. So naturally I wanted to give the album a try.

At this time I owned little music, the indie scene was considered a little bit cool, and (this sounds completely daft now), you didn’t want to make any embarrassing mistakes buying the wrong album. Describing what music you were into was a bit like describing your personality then, although now I come to think of it I can usually tell what someone is into now and vice versa after spending a bit of time with them. Also I find it hard to buy an album after it has done big sales in the charts. It feels like everybody’s then, and not as personal, and that I’m buying it on everyone else’s recommendation and not my own. I want to eliminate most of the snobbishness in writing, but in some ways, I will always be a bit of a music snob. Ho hum.

So to cut a slight tangent off and get back to the point, I bought Copper blue. It was a good choice, didn’t hurt my “music coolness factor”, well actually it probably improved it (not that I was ever cool but you might see what I mean). I listened to it a lot. It was a bit punk, a bit melodic. The singer seemed to be putting a lot into it. It was part of the soundtrack to my college years. This music was real. I still don’t know what I mean exactly, by that. Tracks like “The act we act”, “Good Idea”, “If I can’t change your mind” all seemed to mean something to me, although perhaps as I would come to find out, a little different to what they meant to Bob. But this is how a good album works. It might not sound good at first, but it grows on you, then grows into you, so that it becomes a part of you. The songs become a part of your life, they soundtrack certain things, and remind you of certain things, both of which might be the same. This is what Copper Blue did to me. I still love playing it now of course, otherwise this post might be taking on a different meaning. It went on to become the NME’s best album in the year end poll for 1992, so it validated my pick, but also validated some of my choices in where my music tastes were going. I thought this was important at the time. Is it still now?

It occurs to me that I often find new music by reading the music press (or these days sites like Pitchfork). I’ve read so much of it over the years that I can usually tell by how an album is favoured across a few different publications whether it will be something I would like. This is aside from listening to it on the radio or online. In comparison the itunes / Amazon previews online rarely give me an indicator of this, perhaps because there is only song fragments and I need to listen a number of times. It may have been experiences such as the one with Copper Blue that provided the grounding for doing this, after all I don’t use it as the proverbial bible, but just a starting point. I’m beginning to think Copper Blue has more to answer for than I first thought.

I subsequently learned more Sugar, and about Bob mould (Sugar was essentially a Bob Mould band under a moniker). Bob had been a big influence in the punk scene as part of the band Husker Du, which was a lot rawer, and less melodic than Sugar, or even Bob’s solo material. Later in the nineties, Bob was outed as a gay man so there was the potential issue of the love / relationship songs being sung about another man rather than a woman. Was I bothered about this? Well no actually, and why should I be? I kind of figure that when a song is out there it can be about whoever. Plus relationships have the same underlying emotions regardless of whoever is involved, I’m secure enough in myself that I don’t have to have concerns it they happened to have been written about two men. The music was far too good for that anyway, and I’m also not a homophobic idiot.

Not too many months after Copper Blue came out, a six track mini-album called “Beaster” was released. This was much more raw, and a lot more emotional and cathartic for Bob, you could pretty much tell this from the vocals. These tracks it turned out, were also recorded at the Copper Blue sessions but deemed to intense for that album, so were released separately. I loved this even more. At a push I might even name it as my favourite album, even now. It was just brilliant, – noisy and intense, and at odds from a lot of other music I had been buying (I was likely getting into The Smiths at this point as well). It served as part Yin to the rest of it as Yang, if you want to view it like that, and to which I guess is partially true. It is also played less than Copper Blue. Beaster is a more intense experience and preserved as so by not playing it too often. Copper Blue, brilliant, a little more towards Pop, less intense, arguably Bob’s best album (and my second favourite of his). Incredibly, almost twenty years old (and I suppose with it, Beaster). It still sounds as fresh now, a brings back lots of memories of times long gone. Well that and some new ones. Still good see! – Bob will be playing the album in full, in San Francisco, on February 24th 2012, followed by some European dates.

Lexicon Word of the Day: Lollygag.

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