Best tunes of 1992: #21 Sugar “Helpless”

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I never got into Hüsker Dü.

I can almost hear the sound of thousands of eyebrows raising out there but the truth is, I’ve never even sat down to listen to them.

I am well aware that they are highly influential in alternative rock music and that I quite possibly could find plenty of tunes that I would enjoy within their nine year, six album career. However, Hüsker Dü had already broken up quite acrimoniously by the time my musical tastes had a found a proper home in the alternative rock world in the very early 1990s and with no new music to slog on the alternative radio or music video shows, they didn’t immediately come across my path. By the time I heard tell of them, years later, there was always other new music to occupy to my time and took precedence.

One of the founding members of that band, Bob Mould, however, has not escaped my notice. After Hüsker Dü ended, Mould released a couple of solo albums, both of which saw middling success and to neither of which I have listened. Then, in 1992, Mould formed a new band with bassist David Barbe and drummer Malcom Travis and that same year, this trio, Sugar, released their debut album “Copper blue”. This is where our story begins.

When I first heard the third single off this album, “Helpless”, I knew nothing of Mould or Hüsker Dü or any other context. I just heard this hard hitting beast of a song. It was loud and brash and super confident. The guitars were noisy but still melodic and the drums seesawed between rata-tat-tat gunfire and metronomic syncopation. And there’s Mould singing with by now quite recognizable sneering but calm vocals, not quite buried in the mix but not obviously prevalent either. Indeed, he feels here like just another layer of guitars that anyone can sing along with, more as a hum than outright lambast.

A great tune, a great single, and really, it was just one of many great ones released off an amazing debut. But when I saw him perform solo a bunch of years ago, this was the one that had my fists pumping when I first heard those introductory riffs reverberating in the hot summer sun.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.