Thursday, May 27, 2004

World: Round. Part 2

Let it be known that The Sugarplastic bear some resemblance to XTC. Like The Mommyheads, they also had a shot at the bigtime via Geffen records during that label's short-lived flirtation with indie-ville in the mid-90's. Unlike The Mommyheads, the Sugarplastic are still around, with a really, really low profile. In 2003 they kicked off the release of an "album" made up of a series of 7" singles.

From their 1996 Geffen album Bang, The Earth Is Round, here's Another Myself and here's Don't Sleep. Maybe you have the same reaction that I do: the songs usually have a bunch of different parts and some of these parts are great, but others can get a little cutesy-poo, sort of college glee-clubby in a way. I'm not posting the worst offenders, but trust me when I say that it gets a little icky at times.

Surprisingly, this seems to be a later development. The band's first album Radio Jejune is a little less lushly recorded (I have to stress that Bang, The Earth Is Round sounds really wonderful) but for the most part the material is less cloying. The best song is probably Sun Goes Gold (with a very out-of-character lyric in one of the verses) but there are a lot of contenders. Fans of XTC should really love this one. In this post-Pixies world, I keep expecting huge guitars to come in following the off-kilter bass line that starts the song, but thankfully that doesn't happen. I'd love it if more bands would consider this as an alternative.

Their album following Bang came out in 2000 and it's called Resin. Same good/bad points as Bang, though it's more psychedelic (possibly due to producer Andy Metcalfe, best known for his work with Robyn Hitchcock). (Interesting quote from the chief Sugarplastic, Ben Eshbach, regarding Bang: "I came in every morning and turned all the reverbs off because I didn't want it to turn into a psychedelic salad.") Here's Tamarind Tree. Parts of this are really cool, but I often just want to shake Ben Eshbach and tell him to stop being so frickin' white-bread! The Japanese version of this album features a great, great, great track called Motorola Rocketship that's otherwise only available on an obscure compilation.

Regarding Motorola Rocketship, and continuing with my mini-shpiel from the day before yesterday about finding needles in the haystack of indie: Ben is the kind of songwriter who's totally erratic. I have no doubt that other singles of his could be fantastic, but it's just too risky to go spending lots of money trying to find out. If anyone reading this has gone to the trouble, I'd love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the Sugarplastic's album's worth of seven-inch singles to come out on CD (I've now learned that these vinyl-only collections almost always end up on CD, so I tend to hold off on buying them.) According to the band's discography page, there could/should be a 2004 CD collection of the singles, with bonus tracks. We'll see.

There's a really great Bio section on the band's site. It's written by Ben...I wish every band would have one member write their own history. It's so much more interesting than the usual promo bio's that record companies write. Finally, there's also a Japanese CD of demos, but the day I shell out for an import CD of Sugarplastic demos is the day...someone I trust tells me they're good. A fair amount of Sugarplastic product is available from Not Lame records (including some of the imports) but you should be able to find Bang, The Earth Is Round on eBay or for a couple bucks at most.

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