After a period of somewhat taking Sugar for granted, the recent remastered editions of its albums have been a forceful reminder of how stunning Bob Mould’s post-Hüsker Dü band is to me. Though he lacked Grant Hart as a songwriting foil, Mould’s laser-hot focus in his Sugar work never makes me want for someone to come in and help pick up the slack. Sugar’s 1992 debut Copper Blue has always been a favorite, and ever since the deluxe edition hit it’s been receiving considerable renewed attention via my iPod.
As much as I am a sucker for Mould’s archetypal (and distortion charged) alterna-rock fretwork, I readily recognize that it’s an acoustic number that’s his foremost songwriting triumph from his Sugar tenure. “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” was the fourth and final single from Copper Blue. Out of that assortment of impassioned a-sides, the faultless “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” is simultaneously the most reserved and the most moving. Bright and buoyant, the song’s sparkling rhythm guitars are a reassuring ray of sunshine as Mould comes to terms with an impending breakup. “Tears fill up my eyes / I’m washed away with sorrow / And somewhere in my mind / I know there’s no tomorrow / I see you’re leaving soon / I guess you’ve had your fill”, he tells his departing lover as the truth of the situation dawns on him. Though it’s clear that the relationship is unsalvageable (it’s signposted in the title, and the lyrics touch on trust issues that his significant other can’t overcome), Mould’s knack for a cracking good bridge section and his unwavering determination mean I can’t help but root for the guy when he sings, “I hope you see I’m dedicated / Look how long that I have waited / If you come back then you will find / A different person / If you change your mind.”
In the song’s music video the at-the-time closeted Mould flashes a photograph of himself and his then-partner, which he turns around to reveal the message “This is not your parents’ world”. Accompanying a song that uses no gender pronouns (a common Mould technique), it’s a sly acknowledgement that the heartache and heartbreak expressed by “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” are universal, and transcend all sexes and orientations.