Sugar Answers Rock's Call For Layers of Loud Guitar

Sugar has the kind of sound and fury that has helped define the appeal of alternative rock music: big guitar noise and melody. While the so-called grunge movement smolders, this power trio is gaining ground with its brand of loud tunefulness.

The territory is not new for singer-guitarist Bob Mould, who lit the fuse of ``noise pop'' in the early 1980s with Minneapolis-based Husker Du, a post-punk band known for its muscle-guitar music played at warp speed.

After a few solo efforts (``Workbook,'' ``Black Sheets of Rain''), Mould formed Sugar along with bassist David Barbe and drummer Malcolm Travis. The band's debut record, ``Copper Blue,'' stormed the alternative charts, selling more than 350,000 copies, and clinched a spot on many rock critics' Top-10 lists for 1992. Part of the reason for Sugar's success is that frontman Mould has maintained a loyal following. Another is timing: The band now finds that its musical evolution matches what audiences want to hear. While Mould may not purposely have ventured closer to the mainstream, it came to him.

During a recent concert stop in Boston, Sugar tore through some 20 songs in support of its recently released - and ironically titled - album: ``File Under: Easy Listening (FU:EL)'' on Rykodisc.

Mould opened with a roaring ``Gift,'' then Barbe followed with a resounding ``Company Book'' - both from ``FU:EL.'' But judging from the set list, one would not have guessed the show was promoting the new record. The trio performed seven B-side songs as well as fare from two previous albums.

Even if not all the songs were familiar, Sugar's output didn't disappoint - from the pounding ``Granny Cool,'' and rollicking ``Your Favorite Thing,'' to a few slower tunes such as Barbe's ``Frustration'' and Mould's moving finale of ``Explode and Make Up'' - the latter being easy listeners, all things considered.

*Sugar performs tonight in Atlanta; The tour continues to Austin, Texas, Dec. 1 and 2; Denver, Dec. 5; Tempe, Ariz., Dec. 8; Los Angeles, Dec. 9; San Francisco, Dec. 11; Portland, Ore., Dec. 13; Seattle, Dec. 14.

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