Over the summer, you might recall that we featured an album entitled This Is The Sound Of Sugar Town, Vol. 2. It took the form of a compilation of up and coming artists originating in the beneath the radar musical Utopia that is Bury St Edmunds. With album profits being donated to Julian Support, the record's success has provided the charity with funds to pilot a new music appreciation group for people with mental health issues. October (the 20th to be exact) sees an equally charitable new album in the East Anglian oeuvre. This Was The Sound Of Sugar Town focuses not on the 'I knew them when they played the Dog & Duck' bands of the future but on the market town's musical past as we are treated to a twenty song jaunt through twenty five years of the tracks that have laid the foundations for the flourishing acts of today.
Some of the featured acts received notoriety in their own time, many courtesy of the legendary John Peel whose connection with the Bury St Edmunds area we covered quite extensively in our last review. Mostly rooted in the late 90s/early 00s, these songs not only demonstrate what a vital champion he was for grass roots music but also further highlight the void that has been left in his absence. Miss Black America flit from understated verses to energetic choruses on Feeder-esque resilience anthem Talk Hard. This juxtaposition is also evident on Diastole's Leave Yourself Here as delicate vocals tangle with thrashing guitars. The Dawn Parade, a band who by all accounts were moments away from the big time before their 2003 line-up implosion, inject a bristling electricity into their rail against mundanity on ode to fast-living Caffeine Row.
The most romantic tales though are the bands that never ventured further than local hero status and it is in these tracks that the beauty of this album can be found. Back in the day when the internet was a mere twinkle in the eye of Tim Berners-Lee, these bands were copying job lots of cassette tapes or CD-Rs and drawing album artwork in marker pen. They are your pub balladeers, your small town maestros and everyone who has ever held a guitar in anger will understand their stories. Pipehead harnesses a raw quality on punchy sartorial think piece Pink Shellsuit. Thee Vicars, a band whose fortunes turned sharply after the tragic death of guitarist Chris Langeland, burn brightly on frenetic track Budget Rock. Obima bring ethnic vibes, enchanting melodies and far off vocals to haunting track Ginga. The Khe Sahn Approach close out the record with 14 minute dissension epic Crocodile Teargas which bathes in a delightful melancholy before exploding into crescendos of outrage.
On the whole, the track selection, as I have come to expect from the Sugar Town series, is multifaceted, authentic and packed with intrigue. Where This Is The Sound Of Sugar Town, Vols. 1 and 2 glimpsed beacons on the musical horizon, This Was The Sound Of Sugar Town unearths a time capsule for us to pore over and savour its earthy nostalgia. These tracks are photographs, scrapbook memories of halcyon days. The bands may have now dispersed on to other things but their initials are still carved into the tree of Bury St Edmunds.
I believe that, as well as being an entertaining showcase, there is a deeper importance to this record. Whilst acting as a touching tribute to the history of culture in the area, it also serves as a timely reminder that, as we hurtle past a plethora of next big things to a glittery future, it is important that we take a moment to look back at what has gone before. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “life is a journey, not a destination” and this retrospective is a perfect embodiment of that sentiment and an exquisite accompaniment to the two previous compilations.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Month
“Classrooms crowded with robots//We are Goebbels' children”
Talk Hard – Miss Black America
Trace roads into the past to
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