Ruby Tuesday: Sugarbomb, “After All”

Talk about star-crossed bands. Ft. Worth quintet Sugarbomb freaking rocked, dude. They could sing, they could play, and most importantly, they could write. The only thing they couldn’t do, it appears, was win the love of their label, RCA. After receiving instructions from the label to dumb their music down, Sugarbomb singer and main songwriter Les Farrington gave them “Hello,” a Vertical Horizon-ish slice of generic pop/rock. “You want dumb? Here you go!” Les said.

The label loved it. Uh oh.

The song was a minor hit, popping up on a couple soundtracks, but it was not at all indicative of how talented Sugarbomb really were. Worse, the song gave RCA an idea of how to sell the band, but it would mean turning Sugarbomb into something they were most decidedly not: a generic pop band. Soon after the album was released, RCA dropped the band (the album came out two weeks after 9/11, so RCA was cleaning house). Infighting soon followed, and a few months later, Sugarbomb were finished. Tragic.

Submitted for your approval is “After All,” the final track on the band’s fabulous album Bully (you can find it for a couple bucks on and as grand a tribute to Queen as you’re likely to find outside of “Knights of Cydonia.” The last I heard, Sugarbomb singer Les Farrington was playing at piano bars. Why he doesn’t have a MySpace page, I’ll never understand.

Sugarbomb – After All.mp3


Ruby Tuesday: Rufus Wainwright, “Shadows”

There were few straight men that pimped Rufus Wainwright quite like I once did. From the second I heard “April Fools,” the stunning first single from his Jon Brion-produced debut album, I was hooked. Yes, the voice is an acquired taste, but DAMN, man, listen to that climbing hook in the verse!

And while I quite liked Want One, his 2003 meditation on drugs, desperation, 9/11 and family, I have been non-plussed by everything he’s done since then. I haven’t hated any of it, mind you, or even disliked it: I just found it, well, deathly serious. Even the concert I saw him give in the summer of 2004, an acoustic tour with Ben Folds, was a drag. We left before he was finished. I never do that. Well, almost never.

It is with that thought that I’ve decided to go back and pay tribute to one of the songs that made me like him so much in the first place. “Shadows,” a song from his 2001 album Poses that was produced by onetime Propellerhead Alex Gifford, is unlike anything else in Wainwright’s catalog. Where Wainwright is normally about what will work on the theater stage, this song is all about the groove, and Gifford, as any owner of the sole Propellerheads album Decksanddrumsandrockandroll can attest, knows a thing or two about grooves. This isn’t even a fast groove; it’s just a supa smoove white boy groove.

Please, Rufus, I’m begging you: take off the lederhosen, put the opera records away, and make another pop album. If you could make a song like this once, you could easily do it twice, especially since you’ve had six years to do so.

Rufus Wainwright – Shadows


Ruby Tuesday: The Boomtown Rats, “Me and Howard Hughes”

Bob Geldof’s Boomtown Rats were originally pegged as Springsteen ripoff artists – and if you’ve ever heard “Rat Trap” or “Joey’s on the Street Again,” you know exactly where that rumor got started – but their US debut, A Tonic for the Troops, was much more than a series of “Rosalita” rewrites. And while the band came to prominence during the punk scene, let’s face it: the Rats were no more a punk band than the Clash were. They could rock, sure (“She’s So Modern,” “Blind Date,” “Mary of the 4th Form”), but at heart they were a pop band. A very strange, wonderful pop band.

Thus, “Me and Howard Hughes,” a harmony-drenched song about a guy who fancies himself a self-loathing eccentric. Lock yourself up in your room and enjoy this criminally overlooked band.

Boomtown Rats – Me and Howard Hughes


Ruby Tuesday: House of Love, “You Don’t Understand”

If you scoured CD bins at any point in the mid to late ‘90s, chances are you saw dozens of copies of Babe Rainbow, the album that spawned this Tuesday’s ruby, “You Don’t Understand.” The song serves as House of Love’s answer of sorts to the Charlatans UK’s “The Only One I Know.” You can almost picture singer/songwriter Guy Chadwick saying, “Oh, you’re gonna steal Deep Purple’s ‘Hush,’ are you? Well, I’ll steal Spencer Davis Group’s ‘I’m a Man,’ then! How ya like them apples?”

Actually, them apples is pretty sweet, if you ask me.

House of Love – You Don’t Understand


Ruby Tuesday: Freiheit, “Tears Are A Girl’s Best Friend”

Back in 1989, when Cameron Crowe rounded up John Cusack, Ione Skye, and John Mahoney and produced one of the greatest teen romances of all time (duh, of course we’re talking about “Say Anything…”), he also found time to compose a rather memorable soundtrack as well. The film’s money shot, of course, belonged to Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” but songs from The Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Replacements were used to great effect as well. Hiding way, way at the end of the soundtrack album, however, was a song that I fell in love with about as hard and fast as anything I’d heard in awhile: “Keeping the Dream Alive,” by Freiheit…or, as they’re more commonly known in their native Germany, Münchener Freiheit.

I didn’t know the first thing about Freiheit when I discovered “Keeping the Dream Alive,” but, damn, that song was such a gorgeous, sweeping ballad of ELO-sized proportions that I immediately knew that I’d have to seek out more of their material. As it happens, there wasn’t anything else to seek out…well, not in the U.S., anyway. Not long after, however, the band’s debut American release, Fantasy, found its way onto shelves and, almost immediately thereafter, into my collection. To this day, I’m still surprised that it never scored much in the way of success; it’s a highly enjoyable pop album that owes as much to Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus as it does Jeff Lynne. The only real explanation I’ve ever come up with is that it’s a bit heavier on synths and electronic drum beats than the kids were listening to at the time, but it still features heavily in my regular playlist even in 2007.

Unfortunately, Fantasy remains out of print in the U.S., and since that was the only Stateside release of the band’s career, Freiheit’s profile remains woefully low on our shores. Even the usually helpful All Music Guide gives them short shrift, with the bio in their entry simply reading, “This German band (orig. Munchener Freiheit) played power-pop music from 1982 to 1988.” That’s it. Talk about your inglorious retrospectives!

If you’re curious about the band, there are several import best-of collections available via Amazon, but you should be prepared to find them almost completely free of English-sung material. If you don’t speak German as fluently as the members of Freiheit, however, here’s a song from Fantasy that you might appreciate a bit more:

Freiheit – Tears Are A Girl’s Best Friend