Sugar Rush by Nic Cester – Album Review
By David Schuster
When is an album not an album? That’s the question that’s been on my mind since I first listened to Sugar Rush, Nic Cester’s debut solo release. It’s a question I felt I had to answer, before I could sit down and write this review.
As you’d expect from Jet’s frontman, Cester has created some great blues rock: ‘Sugar Rush’, which is the opener, ‘Psichebello’ and ‘Hard Times’ are all reminiscent of Robert Plant and The White Stripes, but also manage to have a modern feel, very much like The Black Keys. He has a great gravelly voice, and ‘Hard Times’ showcases this especially well. Of these my favourite is ‘Psichebello’, which has a fantastically trippy flute and organ section.
There’s also more musically surprising tracks, some of which work well, such as the 70’s West Coast feel of the upbeat ‘Eyes On the Horizon’, and some of which don’t. Of the latter, ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ and ‘Walk On’ are both well executed and produced, but just don’t work in the overall musical context. ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ has a funk/disco feel, and ‘Walk On’ is more Ibiza chill-out.
Years ago, when making mixed tapes was still a thing, I’d spend hours going through LPs picking out individual tracks. I’d then write them down on paper and shuffle the order around, until I was happy with the result. The point of all this was to ensure that the songs worked together, and that the transitions between fast and slow, soft and loud weren’t jarring. Like the chapters in a book I tried to achieve peaks of interest and reflection into the overall structure of the tape.
It doesn’t feel like enough has been done here towards that goal. But then maybe it doesn’t matter, now that playlists allow everyone to easily edit and re-edit their own compilations. Maybe it only matters to me because I’m reviewing the record as a whole. Unfortunately, it has resulted in the best numbers being clustered towards the beginning. This leaves the weaker ones towards the end, and that’s never a good policy.
So, back to the question: When is an album not an album? The answer for me is, “When it’s just a collection of songs”. A record should be greater than just the sum of the individual tracks, it should have a style and feel all of its own. That then is what Sugar Rush is: A collection of good songs.