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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rock Sugar – Reimaginator – the review

Last week I told you about Rock Sugar. Some of you had already heard of them, some hadn’t and I think in the week between then and now a whole lot more of you have heard of them. Which is, frankly, awesome.

So what’s new since the last time I mentioned the band? Well, for one thing I have a copy of the CD to review for you. Which I will get to in a second. For another thing, I will be interviewing the band sometime soon. Turns out they are just as cool as you might think from hearing their music.

Speaking of their music, let’s talk about it. At length…

Reimaginator, the first full length release from Rock Sugar, is a total treat. Here’s the track list for you.

Don’t Stop The Sandman
We Will Kickstart Your Rhapsody
Crazy Girl
Voices In The Jungle
Here Comes The Fool You Wanted
Shook Me Like A Prayer
Straight To Rock City
Prayin’ For A Sweet Weekend
Heaven And Heaven
Breakin’ The Love
I Love Sugar On Me
Round And Separated
Dreaming Of A Whole Lotta Breakfast

And the line-up: Jess Harnell (Lead vocals), Chuck Duran (Guitar/vocals), Alex Track (Drum/vocals) and Johnny Five (Bass/vocals).

Now, you have to remember the band does… I don’t know what to call them. Metal remixes, maybe, of 80s pop standards. The first track, which is also the subject of their first full video, merges Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing with Metallica’s Enter Sandman.

What you need to understand is that this is not the highlight of the album. I mean it is a great song, it works wonderfully, but the full monty has even more joys waiting for you to discover.

It all comes down to this fact: the band can fucking play. They can all play and Harnell can sing. I don’t mean “acceptably” I mean “these guys rock.” Remember when you were a kid? Fuck, see, man I remember this one.

I remember when I was a kid and I discovered Metallica for the first time. I loved (and still do, unashamedly) Huey Lewis and the News. The heart of Rock n’ Roll was still beating. In me, fuckers. That was rock to me. One day a friend handed me a tape (we used these things back them, we called them “tapes,” I’m old and also owned LPs, mm’kay?) and told me to listen to it.

So I put this tape in my walkman and hit play and had my mind blown. If you’ve only heard pop’s version of rock and then, with the volume way up, you put on Blackened? Yeah, mind = blown.

And suddenly, I understood the difference between rock and Rock. I still like Huey Lewis and I love 80s pop and I always will, but there’s a sense to a lot of that era’s metal as well that just fucking flat out, capital-R, Rocks.

That, my friends, is what Rock Sugar does. The… blasphemy, really… of putting Journey together with Metallica hit me square in the childhood. The balls that takes! The sheer nerve of them to try and… holy shit this fucking rules! That “blasphemy” is awesome! Yeah, it was like that. And then you have We Will Kickstart Your Rhapsody which mixes Crüe’s Kickstart My Heart with Queen’s We Will Rock You with a dash of Bohemian Rhapsody. The remixes…

Time-out. Just to explain. They aren’t mash-ups, really. Traditional musical mash-ups take two songs and merge them, lyrically and musically. Though many of the songs do have lyrics from the music source, what Rock Sugar is doing is more akin to a remix. Taking a song and layering in a new backing to it. I am open to other opinions on this matter but there you go. Back to it…

The remixes. Right. They are smart. Kickstart My Heart isn’t one of those tunes you know from just the music, as much. So you need something like Queen to really bring it home. Shook Me Like A Prayer combining AC/DC and Madonna not only works, I might like their take better than hers. Then again, I have a soft spot for AC/DC.

Crazy Girl, mixing Crazy Train and Jesse’s Girl is inspired but I do have to make a minor quibble here. If you’re going to do Ozzy’s cackle, it has to soar way up there in pitch and this one rides down low. Doesn’t quite sell for me. I defended it to a friend noting that the entire pitch of the song had been taken down so the laugh was where it should have been, and I stand by that, but it doesn’t feel right, sadly. Sorry, had to get that off my chest.

I’m not going to go through this song by song, though I could. What I’m trying to get across, here, is that the selections are smartly chosen, through and through. There’s no fat here. This is a bunch of guys who can play the living fuck out of a song, and Harnell can sing both the pop and the metal home. And they’re playing. Not in the “their instruments” sense but in the “let’s go play a game” sense. They’re playing and you can feel it and that is the most wonderful thing in the world.

If you want something that can make you laugh, rock out, and gaze questioningly at your speakers while you wonder what they’ve done this time, then you’ll want to pick this thing up right quick.

Reimaginator is something new. It’s playful and fun and it rocks. You can buy the CD over here.

The band’s site is right here. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Adam P. Knave

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