By Susan Sliwicki
With shiny jeans, plenty of tattoos and a copious supply of hair, the men of Rock Sugar unapologetically bring to life every hair metal stereotype in the book.
But like a thinking man’s Spinal Tap, Rock Sugar is so far in on the joke, the group is writing the punchlines.
Their "Reimaginator" CD sat on my desk for over a week, and I almost didn’t listen to it. But like a kind of musical car crash, I just couldn’t bring myself to look away, so I finally gave in and gave it a listen. I really wanted to hate it.
So you can imagine my surprise when I finally slipped the CD into the player and was so blown away by their collective musical finesse that I broke out in goosebumps. Drummer Alex Track’s beats are rock steady, guitarist Chuck Duran clearly knows his way around all the best power chords, and lead singer Jess Harnell displays a jaw-droppingly awesome range of vocals.
Each tune hooks up a set of what should be incredibly mismatched tunes from the ’60s,’70s and/or ’80s in such a way that they’re both familiar and groundbreaking at the same time. I mean, who in their right mind would ever pair the mushy 10cc ballad “I’m Not In Love” with a balls-to-the-wall metal anthem like Judas Priest’s “Breakin’ The Law” to spawn “Breakin’ The Love”? Yet, it totally works.
Journey, Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Loverboy, Warrant, Ratt, KISS,
Queen, Bryan Adams, Aerosmith, Joan Jett, Motley Crue, Madonna, Paula Abdul,
Eurythmics, Supertramp… they're all here. If you think it can’t — or shouldn’t — be done, Rock Sugar is willing to pitch the songs in their musical blender and give it a whirl.
After listening to the album twice, I’m still hard-pressed to figure out either my favorite song or the strangest combination, because they all work, albeit in some kind of parallel-universe version of a “Glee” mashup. What’s most impressive to me is the sheer number of songs that Rock Sugar “re-imagined” that I either didn’t like or had tired of hearing, but which I absolutely love in these new, unconventional arrangements.
So, where the heck have these guys been? Are they karaoke sharks in disguise? Are they just more creative than your typical cover band? Or are they incredible performers struggling with writer’s block when it comes to creating all-original material?
I hope Rock Sugar can deliver an album of all-original material that lives up to the potential they’ve shown here.
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