By The Sugars
The Sugars appear to have been purveying their darkly sweet brand of rock 'n' roll to us lucky Leodensians for some time now, but this semi-eponymous long player is their debut full-length offering. It has been worth the wait. Not everyone carries their compelling live show into the studio, but this band have undoubtedly managed it. As the time delay would suggest, the path to this release has been occasionally fraught. It seems that the major problem involved the loss, and eventual replacement, of the drummer. However, most of us will know the stylish side of this band through their co-frontpersons Matt and Anna - all edgy 50s chic; glamourous posturing with the hint of a murkier edge.
Rest assured that with The Sugars there is plenty of substance to match the style. If you're looking for reference points in the early years of the genre, you'll find far less Cliff or Elvis than Johnny Kidd or Billy Fury. The vocals are largely frantic and edgy rather than crooned, and whilst we do get one or two downbeat - even balladic - departures (most pointedly in album closer, You Better Go), they're far from saccharine-sweet and underpinned by doom-laden percussion.
Perhaps the most obvious thing that sets The Sugars apart from retro-rocking comparisons such as the Raveonettes is that they are less concerned about melding the ancient with the modern than simply perfecting the classic original rock 'n' roll sound. Many of these tracks could, conceivably, have been launched upon an appreciative audience in 1960... and have been subsequently lambasted by worried parents everywhere. (Although having said that, Mama - a doo-wop classic which would've had kids casting aside their frothy coffee to jive around the juke box - might've received the parental seal of approval as much for its inoffensive tones as its tales of maternal wisdom.)
Sure enough, some of the guitar scuzz is a bit louder than might have been normal 'back in the day', and some of the drumming occasionally reaches an intensity rarely witnessed in that pre-Moon & Bonzo era, but the heart of this record is unashamedly and gloriously informed by a previous age. The exceptions are the little things that remind us that the last 45 years of rock history haven't totally been overlooked by these retro rockers, even if against their better judgement. The fashion in which the high-hat is attacked on Way to My Heart is positively disco, and would've had George McFly and chums every bit as confused as they were by Marty's Hendrix impression if they'd played it at the Back to the Future prom.
Previous favourites Monsters and Fairytales of Love make beefed-up reappearances on the disc and, along with the aforementioned Way to My Heart and recent single Black Friday, make this a coherent body of work that still holds a decent number of stand-out tunes. At 36 minutes it's a short and sweet first outing but, informed as it is by an era of punchy brevity, this is not altogether surprising. And given that you'll want to replay those 36 minutes at least a couple of times before taking it off the turntable, it still goes down as decent value for money in my book.