By Kurt Torster
Sugarbomb “Bully” (2001)
I’ve always been something of a pop-head. I guess it came from being raised on AM radio back in the 70s, where the worlds of ABBA would collide with the likes of Kiss, and no one thought it strange in the least. Even when I was a “rocker” by day, listening to Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, by night I was listening in secret to the Bee Gees and the Bay City Rollers. I was always more of a McCartney and not Lennon guy. Give me those silly little love songs any day.
As I skated through the 80s, bouncing between Iron Maiden one day and Journey the next, I was dragged into the 90s and, while I might have been late to their party, discovered the band Jellyfish. It really did shake the foundations of my musical base. Suddenly, here was a band that was not only afraid to cite someone like the Carpenters or Badfinger as influences, they did so quite proudly by covering their songs in concert. While the rest of the world was nursing the mediocrity of the hair metal hangover, Jellyfish were busy attempting to craft the perfect intelligent pop song and succeeding, even if no one was listening at the time.
That discovery also set me on a course of finding bands that shared their vision of a pop utopia. I came across many albums, both old and new, that I still treasure to this day, but none more so than “Bully” from the Dallas band Sugarbomb. Taking equal bits of the grandiose of Queen, the orchestration of Electric Light Orchestra and the brilliance of Supertramp’s pop sheen, it has become the kind of album I love as much from the first listen as I do on the thousandth. Like the best classics, each time out brings new bits that you didn’t catch before and remains fresh to this day, some nine years on.
Oddly enough, the band was dropped by their label RCA as their single “Hello” was denting the lower reaches of the chart, thanks to its placement in the film Van Wilder. The album had the really unfortunate timing of being released two weeks after September 11, 2001 and a world that was bordering on happiness was thrown into years of despair then hope and eventual recovery. There just wasn’t a place at the time for happy go lucky pop.
There were so many potential hit singles here, from the bouncy power pop of “What A Drag” to the balls out rock of “Clover” and “Gone” to amazing harmonics of my favorite song on offer, the very Queen-like “After All.” I wonder if everyone might have been better served to put the album back on the shelf for a year or so while the world sorted itself out.
I was lucky enough to get a CD with a handful of songs that would have made up the next album and these guys were definitely on to something. But, nothing ever became of it and I have no idea what happened to the foursome after. Even Google searches turn up very little other than glowing reviews of people who share my unyielding passion for this set. Considering the price it currently fetches on Amazon, this would be the best $1.52 you ever spent.