CD Review: Sugarcult inspired by numbness on Lights Out

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For about half a dozen years, Sugarcult has been a Warped Tour favorite, inspiring frenzied mosh pits and a range of fans attracted to their propensity for serious lyrics tucked behind a veil of fast-paced guitars. Though the release of Lights Out will not likely change their chief demographic, it certainly signifies a progression in the band’s musical direction.

Lights Out gives birth to the child of Green Day and The Police. And while one might expect it to be a painful birthing process, the resulting hybrid is one that is intriguing and, at times, mesmerizing—even if only because the growth is so seamless.

Perhaps the key ingredient to the flawless sound is the guitar prowess of Marko DeSantis. Not a conventionally overpowering guitarist, DeSantis doesn’t necessarily play faster or harder than anyone else. Instead, he has clearly honed the art of milking every note to reach maximum impact. The resulting solos are brilliant in their timing, often creating or modifying a mood in a way that mere words couldn’t.

But an arresting guitar sound isn’t enough to make a great record. Enter primary singer/songwriter Tim Pagnotta. His raspy screams add not-so-subtle intensity to an album filled with lyrics about the numbing effects of regret, lust and one-night stands. To list the songs where these themes appear would be tantamount to simply providing the entire track listing. Instead, if you want to understand what Lights Out is all about, simply listen to “Los Angeles,” the album’s third track—it will provide a fairly accurate temperature reading.

This new album is indicative of the fact that while band members’ professional lives may excel, their personal ones don’t always flourish in the same manner. Lights Out captures the emptiness of fleeting relationships and experiences with frightening accuracy.

Make no mistake: Sugarcult has done nothing but grow musically and lyrically. But it’s the inspiration for those songs that reveals a band at a personal crossroads. And though some say that the best art is the result of pain, Sugarcult reveals that just as much inspiration can come from numbness.

From the Dec. 6 – Dec. 12, 2006, issue

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