Former Santa Barbara Band’s Third Album Lights Out Show Definitive Progress
Sugarcult, the four guys that were once “bouncing off the walls again” back in 2003, are now back for the third time with Lights Out, brandishing a far more seasoned sound. Fresh off their tour with the punk superpower known as Green Day, the stadium shows and transatlantic tours have been just a slight change in scenery for the band that once had to jam in music class at Santa Barbara City College where they first met. Selling nearly 900,000 albums in three years could have some dramatic effects on a band, but as frontman Tim Pagnotta explained, sticking together and keeping their feet on the ground has helped them endure the politics and evolve both as people and musicians.
Sugarcult’s path has been a long and arduous one, beginning in 1999 in the halls of the music department of SBCC as Tim sat in a music theory class and passed a longing glance at the test of their future bass player, Airin Older. The two became fast friends, sneaking into the music room between classes to jam out song ideas. Marko 72, meanwhile, had been going through a period of musical promiscuity as he played in and out of bands, hosted a KJEE radio show, wrote The Indy’s “Positively State Street” column, and worked at Just Play Music. When he and Tim met at a Superdrag concert, Sugarcult became the focus that he had been searching for.
Since then, adaptation has been the name of the game, as their first album, Start Static, incurred a whirlwind of tour dates that lasted for almost three years. During that time, their sophomore release, Palm Trees and Power Lines, managed to hit shelves in 2004. And then in 2005, they released a film about the band called Back to the Disaster. The incessant haste of the business has been a disconcerting battle to say the least, admitted Marko, often leaving the guys with feelings of alienation as they struggled to stay close to family and friends. But, he pointed out, their fight to stay centered has only brought them closer as a band.
However, it seems the inexorable drudgeries of the industry have found their way under the skin of the quartet, creating a distinct motif of frustration on Lights Out. Right from the push of the play button, the timbre of the album presents itself as immediately more hardened than previous efforts, both lyrically and instrumentally. Tracks such as “Dead Living,” “Los Angeles,” “Explode,” and “Riot” express a profound frustration with society and the music industry, particularly the pitfalls of radio and mainstream media.
In fact, the album seems to fire out a succession of frustrated ballads right up until “Shaking,” a pensive respite that discusses, with just a hint of self-deprecation, escape through sex. “Hiatus” is undoubtedly the crescendo of Lights Out, a kinetic track about the velocity of love and its impact on youth.
Though the lyrics may have some fire in them, the skillful cadence of Tim’s songwriting has only gotten better. Sugarcult certainly seperates themselves apart from the alternative scene through their inspired lyrics. Lines such as “The distance between the sheets when chemicals compete / The friction of skin is deathly unbearable / The basics of war are near the coward’s in you and me,” from “Hiatus,” speak poetic volumes of personal experience.
Overall, it seems Sugarcult has emerged from their third release a bit weathered and perhaps somewhat drained, but brandishing a cathartic evolution as a band. Make sure to catch one of the shows on the Lights Out tour, which hits San Diego on Tuesday, September 12 and San Francisco on September 13—and don’t forget to bring Marko some Deano’s pizza.