Friday, December 14, 2012
Flashback Friday - Sugartooth
Well it's been awhile since I put together a Flashback Friday feature, but when Reg sent out the Heavy Planet distress beacon due to other commitments, I decided it was as good a time as any to get back on that horse and ride it. Just as a reminder, this is a feature with the sole purpose of introducing…or perhaps re-introducing…you to a band from yesteryear who I feel are and/or were tragically under appreciated. As always, I encourage you to seek out all of the FF artists, give a listen for yourself and join me in my nostalgic trip down musical memory lane.
The subject for today's Flashback Friday is none other than the SoCal riff-mongers known as Sugartooth. Unfortunately, this is a band that never really had much of a chance given the fickle nature of the music industry…especially back in their day. You see, Sugartooth just happened to have a sound that fit the flavor du jour back in the early 90's…a time when record labels were shitting their pants to sign anyone who claimed Sabbath as an influence. And who could blame them? What with the overwhelming success of albums like Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, heavy riffs and soaring vocals were nothing if not a fucking cash cow.
As a result, Sugartooth were snatched up by the capital hungry Capitol Records faster than they could say "grunge". Apparently however, the suits at Capitol didn't approve of the songs the band had written for their self-titled debut album and subsequently released the band from their contract. Enter the mighty David Geffen Company (DGC) who, despite being just as money hungry as their counterparts, at least had the stones to put the record out. The result was a monstrous collection of groove heavy blues that took Sabbath worship to a whole new level.
Featuring the dual guitar attack of Marc Hutner (also the vocalist) and Timothy Michael Gruse, and the rhythm section of bassist Josh Blum and drummer Joey Castillo (who you probably know from his stints in Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal and Danzig to name a few), the band's sound was so thick, you could chew it. If you can track down this hidden gem from 1994, give a listen to songs like "Cracks in the Pavement" and "Sheffield Milestone" for examples of Sugartooth's monolithic heaviness inflected with their distinctive nod to the blues. With moderate radio and MTV support for the song "Sold My Fortune" off the debut album, Sugartooth's stock seemed to be rising and the band subsequently landed gigs with the likes of Slayer, Stone Temple Pilots and…of course…Soundgarden.
However, by the time they would ready themselves for album number two, both Castillo and Gruse would be out of the fold. Hutner and Blum employed a drum machine before eventually welcoming the talents of Dusty Watson (Rhino Bucket, Dick Dale) on drums and soldiering on as a three piece. With legendary production duo, The Dust Brothers (Beastie Boys, Beck) on board, the band unveiled a sound that was decidedly less dark and more funky…I'm talking samples from Dolemite funky…on their 1997 followup album The Sounds of Solid. The album retained some of the heavy groove from the debut (take a listen to "Come On In"), but ultimately was an eclectic mashup of stoner rock and dance grooves that made those Sabbath comparisons a stretch. Now the Sugartooth sound had a beat…and you could dance to it!
Realizing The Sounds of Solid may not be for everyone, I still recommend that you check it out. Given that the album was released 15 years ago, it's amazing how innovative it sounds today…in fact, I'd go so far as to throw out that old cliche…it was ahead of its time. But unfortunately, the sophomore record failed to move enough units, and as a result, the band decided to call it a day. Regardless, for those who were fortunate enough to hear Sugartooth back in the 90's, their legacy was cemented long ago. But for those who are just hearing about them for the first time here in this edition of Flashback Friday…well to take a page out of Dolemite's book...let me tell you 'bout the bad muthafuckas called Sugartooth.