What is it with bands and their apparent need to squeeze the word ‘sugar’ into their monikers? First we had Sugar Ray, more recently Sugarbomb and now Sugarcult. But the name isn’t all that’s sweet about these Californian rockers.
Start Static is one of the most punchy and downright addictive pop-punk debuts to surface in 2001, and with bands like Eve 6, Sum 41 and American Hi-Fi already finding success this year with a similar brand of energetic pop-punk, that’s no mean feat.
It’s fair to say fans of the above-mentioned bands will positively drool over Sugarcult, but, rather than being a mere clone of what’s come before, what makes their music sustainable in such a crowded scene is the solid songwriting of vocalist/guitarist Tim Pagnotta.
His riffs are crunchy and economic, and Pagnotta has an interesting knack for filling his three-minute pop-punk tunes with more than your average teen-angst lyrics. The superb “Saying Goodbye” is a triumphant, universal anthem for anyone contemplating a change of scene and the lyrics paint a sensitive, almost poignant picture: “They hate her when she’s beautiful / And even more when she’s a fool / They talk behind her back when it’s her birthday”.
“Daddy’s Little Defect” hints that more than two minutes has been spent putting the lyrics together, as does the excellent “Pretty Girl (The Way)”, which bristles with a throbbing bass line and some choice guitar tones, whilst the Goo Goo Dolls-esque “Lost in You” recalls a former relationship in a nostalgic, even wry way to give the song an added charm.
The first single, “Stuck in America”, has suffered from a case of slightly bad timing with lyrics like “Everybody’s talking’ about blowing up the neighbourhood”, but such lyrical misfortune aside, the song has a definite Green Day influence combined with a memorable siren-like guitar melody and a sense of real urgency and aggression.
More of the same follows in the punchy “Hate Every Beautiful Day” and the melodic gem, “How Does It Feel”, whilst there’s a surprising twist at the end of the album with a jazzy, chilled-out hidden track that again shows how versatile Pagnolla’s songwriting is.
In short, Start Static isn’t the greatest rock album you’ll ever hear, but it never has any aspirations to be. It is, however, damn enjoyable, and what the music (and the name) perhaps lacks in originality, it more than compensates for in well-written, high-energy tunes that remain memorable long past the customary first few plays.
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// Notes from the Road
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