Sugardrive - In The Circle

In The Circle

Released:
2001, Undercover Recordings,
LMSG 004

SA Rock Digest charts:
highest position: 12
weeks on Top 20: 3

Website:
Sugardrive

Tracks:

  1. Interplanetary MVA
  2. Meteor
  3. Tsampa
  4. Michelangelo's Holding Hands
  5. Soul
  6. Live On
  7. Y.W.I.M
  8. U-Boat
  9. Tumblin' Down
  10. Ten Feet High
  11. Disco Lazarus

Musicians:

  • Garth McLeod: drums, percussion
  • Gavin Weinand: bass, vocals
  • Michael Westwood: guitars
  • Paul E Flynn: vocals, guitar, keyboards

Review:

I've always had a sweet spot for this band since their second album, 'Sand.Man.Sky.', which I felt was a landmark album in '90's SA rock. It was inventive and full of great songs and promised much. Although the follow-up album, 'When I Died I Was Elvis', sounded like a progression, it fell way short of its predecessor due to the band's new affinity for textured soundscapes, instead of tunes, and vocalist Paul E Flynn's new groany vocals and oblique lyrics. Initially it sounded like they had lost their edge, although songs like 'Disco Lazarus', 'I Love You Discuss', and '35 Mil.' made some sense of this new direction and sounded gigantic when played on Alanis Morissette's sound system, when Sugardrive supported her on her SA tour.

But I still couldn't love the 'Elvis' album, and found the follow-up EP, 'A Single And Some Remixes', boring and self-indulgent, with three new mixes of 'Disco Lazarus' and two of '35 Mil.'. The band's performance at last year's 'Winston State of the Nation' concert in Cape Town confirmed my fears. Sugardrive started slowly and gradually lost the crowd's interest with an uninspiring and moody set. They did throw in a wondrous version of 'Road' (a crunching rock gem off 'Sand. Man. Sky.'), but it was too little too late. I was pleased the band got to perform in Australia recently, especially at the prestigious 'Big Day Out' festival, but wondered how their music would go down in their Oz club dates and on this festival. Not too well, as I subsequently heard, with the Aussie rock fans not quite getting the nuances of this new, rambling "Blue Floyd" style.

Which brings me to 'In The Circle', the band's first live album, recorded over two nights at The Bassline in Melville, and a celebration of the band's new-found "independence". One listen through this collection was all I could manage as, regardless of the impressive response from the small (and obviously well-connected) audience, 'In The Circle' is evidence of a rock band who have lost their direction and focus. While there are reasonable versions of 'Ten Feet High', 'Disco Lazarus' and 'Tumblin' Down' (a folky track off their much earlier 'Snapshots' EP), the rest of these meandering noodlings are tuneless and tedious.

I later caught Paul E Flynn and guitarist Michael Westwood being interviewed on TV, telling us that Sugardrive's new album will be out in June, but that the band hadn't yet entered the studio to begin recording it. Our man Flynn then used a cooking metaphor to describe his view of the recording process with regard to adding ingredients, experimenting etc. Westwood ominously pointed out that Paul doesn't cook! So this next album could land up tasting like any old flung-together concoction, which would be a complete waste as this is an SA band who have always promised so much more. Sugardrive have a responsibility, as one of SA's top rock acts, to refocus and produce the quality (classic?) album some of their previous work has always hinted at. I'm still hopeful and confident this will happen. But this live collection, reputedly the first ever by a major SA rock band, is strictly for dedicated fans only.

Stephen Segerman, SA Rockdigest #97, March 2001

All info supplied by John Samson, June 2002


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