Palm Trees and Power Lines

Studio Album by released in 2004

Palm Trees and Power Lines review

The Santa Barbara, CA, rock quartet Sugarcult took their name from a moniker that lesbian neighbors who lived next door to the band (singer/guitarist Tim Pagnotta, guitarist Marko 72, bassist Airin, and drummer Ben Davis) called themselves. Although the band cites such '70s punk songsmiths as Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello as major influences, Sugarcult's sound is pure late-'90s punk-pop a la Blink 182 and Green Day. The group's debut album, Start Static, issued in August of 2001, was an energetic slice of alternative-rock-flavored power-pop that also paid passing tribute to the band's Southern California punk-tinged brethren. With three more years of experience and musical honing under their belts, Sugarcult (with recent addition Kenny Livingston on drums) has delivered Palm Trees and Power Lines, an album with immense promise.

The plaintive edge that lurked below the surface of singer/guitarist Tim Pagnotta's songs is now front and center. The new material has an emotional intensity that matches the band's electrifying musical jolt. Sugarcult is quintessentially Californian, and the album's 12 songs play out against the backdrop of California's beauty and ugliness, its romance and reality; documenting a physical and psychological journey that begins and ends at the edge of the Pacific.

With Palm Trees and Power Lines, the group introduces a more layered, varied sound, while still retaining enough hooks to fill a tackle box. While the sweetly melancholy Back to California uses a touch of trip-hop, Destination Anywhere recalls the driving drama of U2's Bullet the Blue Sky. On the undeniably catchy rocker Memory, the band effortlessly dives into one of the themes that have made them such an important band to their fans - love hanging by a thread. The similarly wrenching songs, Crying and Over, search for a glimmer of affirmation amid the debris of shattered romantic dreams. The album's final track, Sign Off, is a disarmingly honest acoustic guitar-based look at suicide that hearkens back to the Husker Du classic Hardly Getting Over It (from Candy Aplle Grey).

Of course, Sugarcult's bread and butter is the huge, soaring, Nirvana-esque power chorus, and fans will be pleased to know that Palm Trees and Power Lines will keep them humming long after the disc stops spinning. Sugarcult has upped the ante with a musically and emotionally resonant album that marks the coming of age of an important new band with something to say and the firepower to put it across with a vengeance. There's simply no quitting - and no compromise - with this crew. Get used to having Sugarcult around, because they're not about to go away.