Indie Review: Sugar Tradition “Sugar Shack”

originally posted on This Music Blog Sux Aug 10, 2021

I’ve been getting pretty lucky with local finds. I’ve been digging my head deep into proto-punk for my latest release (Take Me Home), and so I gave a whirl at trying to find some current garage rock. I feel like, you reading this kind of gives it away. I did. Sugar Tradition is a psychedelic garage rock trio from Detroit. From their website;

Sugar Tradition was formed in April of 2017. We are a psychedelic rock band that has taken inspiration from musical artists such as The 13th Floor Elevators, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Country Joe and The Fish, and Grateful Dead. Our goal is to bring back psychedelic sounds to the public, and inspire others to join the community.

Their current lineup is Antonio Keka on guitar and vocals, Arlo Betley on bass, and Kevin Irwin on percussion. I got super lucky because their latest release “Sugar Shack” just came out, July 19 via Remove records. Preceding this are some bandcamp demos, their previous album “Green Machine”, and their single “She Left Me”. I took a quick dip into the backlog and found it to be in line with their current release, so if you end up digging it, don’t hesitate to listen further. So what do we have ourselves; Sugar Shack is a ten track, half hour-ish psychedelic rock/garage rock album with heavy classic rock influence. I would go as far as to say that this album would not have been out of place being released, 50-60 years ago. For some of you, that already has you interested.

Let’s start with the production. I love lo-fi. I’m gonna to start hard and say I may start using this album as my personal production standard. It might just be something about trios, but the production throughout the album feels like the perfect balance of listenability and lo-fi feel. The bass is always audible( usually giving us some fantastic mid-tones) , the guitar is always ripping, and covers a lot of great psychedelic staple sounds, and the vocals and drums feel suitably garagey, never getting in the way. The production style also manages to capture a lot of the energy and momentum that tends to make bands fantastic live (I have a strong feeling this is the case here, though I have yet to confirm).

From Their BandCamp

The musical performances themselves are consistently good throughout, obviously syncing well with each other, and moving together musically. I find the guitar and bass to be especially excellent, the guitarist giving several spectacular solo performances. The songwriting, in my opinion, is where some improvement would launch this band from great, to a must listen. The thing that started to catch me with multiple listens; I think this is a better album, than any of these are individually great songs. Not to say their aren’t some standouts, I love the momentum and stooges akin vocals of “Baby What’s Wrong”, and the doominess of the bassline and guitar work of “Pathological Waste”, but most of the songs fall just short of being catchy, and can start to run together just a bit. From what I can tell, this is a pretty young band, they are clearly already very talented, and I’ve always thought songwriting is one of the talents that takes a bit longer to nurture, so I really look forward to watching this band further develop. I would personally love to see the guitar go a bit more wild, or for them to insert a bit more Avant-Garde and noise rock flavor into their music, especially since it seems they are already moving in that direction a bit with this release. 

Are you one of those assholes that says they don’t make music like they used too, while exclusively listening to things that came out at least 40 years ago? This band is why you are wrong. Rock ain’t dead, and garages can still produce some psychedelic wunderkind.

Definitely doesn’t suck/ 10

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