Nov 2023 05

Album CoverBlack Sugar Transmission
Album: Menace and Magic / Automatic
Category: Electro / Rock
Label: Self-Released
Release Date: 2023-09-01 / 2023-10-06
Author: Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)


 

Under the banner of his own Black Sugar Transmission, Andee Blacksugar has demonstrated a uniquely exploratory mindset to rock and pop music, infusing elements of goth, glam, electro, industrial, and who knows what else. When not touring with the likes of Blondie or KMFDM, he’s writing and recording his own music… and when he’s not doing that, he’s crafting full-length covers of his favorite records, often mangling and mauling them to his own style while remaining generally faithful to the original recordings – among them have been albums by Motörhead, Garbage, Madonna, and now The Jesus & Mary Chain as he takes on the Scottish act’s third album from 1989, Automatic.

But before we get into that, let’s discuss Menace and Magic, on which Blacksugar revises a series of songs he’d previously made available only to his Patreon subscribers in 2020. This writer had once described the sound of Black Sugar Transmission as what might happen if Prince and Queen had fornicated on a bed of Nine Inch Nails… well, this still certainly applies. From the throbbing synths and vibrant guitars of “Burning the Barn Down” to the slick disco grooves and spacey, rather spooky atmospheres of “Insane For the Duration” and “All Around You,” BST’s sound continues to enthrall with its diverse tones and off-kilter stylistic juxtapositions, often recalling the adventurous spirit of David Bowie in his later years. This is especially so on the darkly catchy “Another One Down,” its strutting, cocky rock beat and riffs sure to evoke memories of “Fashion,” while the interplay of Blacksugar’s vocal and guitar prowess on songs like “High in the Engine Room” and “Singing Songs and Feeling Dead Forever” amid funky bass and electronics often result in hooks one might expect in a ‘60s go-go pop song. The crunchy synths of “Leave Me Alone” and the steely acoustic thrums of “Cheapness, a Way of Life” and “All Around You” also shimmer with a kind of brazen blacklight bombast that is simply irresistible. One might wish for a deluxe edition of Menace and Magic to feature the original Patreon versions, although it’s dubious how far they deviate from what we’re presented with here.

Album CoverNot considered a hit upon its initial release, Automatic has risen in stature over the past 30+ years to be heralded as one of the band’s best works; veering from the shoegazing haziness of previous releases, the album showed Jim and William Reid embracing the sounds of ‘50s rock & roll in a manner that was quite in vogue for the time. But of course, Blacksugar ups the ante with his renditions, paying reverence to those classic vibes and adding his own flourishes to really amplify the inherent brilliance of the original album. Case in point, his gorgeous take on “Halfway to Crazy,” emphasizing doo-wop vocal harmonies in tandem with harmonica and acoustic strumming for that distinct flavor of nearly 70 years ago; the same can be said of “Drop” and especially the opening and closing versions of “Here Comes Alice.” On the other hand, Blacksugar’s pulsating electronics and vibrant guitar solos and noises on “Between Planets” and especially “Coast to Coast” bear a resemblance to what you might here on ZZ-Top’s Afterburner album, while “Head On” is given a faster, slightly punkier vibe. You’ve got the strutting rhythms and trashy glam of “UV Ray,” the bluesy thrust of “Take It” and “Blues From a Gun,” and the grit and grime of “Gimme Hell.” In the end, BST’s Automatic feels less like a tribute for fellow fans of The Jesus & Mary Chain, and more like a creative exercise in translating the sounds of a bygone era into a modern context… either way, it’s a fun album.

One suspects that even at this late stage, he probably has more surprises brewing and ready to be unveiled before the year is out, since Andee Blacksugar is already known for his prodigious skill and prolific output. Still, to deliver a one-two back-to-back punch in 2023 after three years of touring, recording, and remixing for others is testament to the wellspring of talent he has to offer. If nothing else, the mélange of styles and sounds that encompass Black Sugar Transmission is to be admired.
 
Track list:
Menace and Magic

  1. High in the Engine Room
  2. Burning the Barn Down
  3. Cheapness, a Way of Life
  4. Singing Songs and Feeling Dead Forever
  5. Insane For the Duration
  6. Leave Me Alone
  7. Another One Down
  8. Discovered
  9. All Around You
  10. Plastic Saviors

 
Automatic

  1. Here Comes Alice
  2. Coast to Coast
  3. Blues From a Gun
  4. Between Planets
  5. UV Ray
  6. Her Way of Praying
  7. Head On
  8. Take It
  9. Halfway to Crazy
  10. Gimme Hell
  11. Drop
  12. Sunray
  13. Here Comes Alice (Bonus)

 
Black Sugar Transmission
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