REVIEW: Nic Cester

‘Sugar Rush’
November 3, 2017

Having spent the best part of two decades at the helm of one of Australia’s most well-loved rock acts, Nic Cester is out to prove that he’s more than Jet’s frontman. Years of hard work have finally culminated in the release of his debut solo album Sugar Rush, and before you get any ideas, it’s not what you’re expecting.

Jet’s seminal album Get Born has such a distinctive feel and style about it, and thinking back to their dominant years across the 2000s, it’s hard to imagine Cester in another context. Cester’s debut solo record shows off an unexpected versatility and an understated feeling of joyful emotion. Sugar Rush moves at a laid-back pace and is filled with dense instrumental textures that evoke feelings of intimacy and uncertainty, somehow at the same time.

Sugar Rush is tinted with psychedelic rock and feelings of scuzz throughout, but there are so many different vibes coming through across the 12 tracks that it would be wrong to try to pigeonhole the record too much. Cester kicks off the way he means to go on as well, with the title track ‘Sugar Rush’ bringing together African drums, a scuzzy guitar riff, a clean guitar solo, keys, tasteful vocal layering, lashings of wah and so much more.

Cester also explores polarities within a track, getting deep into contrasting timbres within the same song on multiple occasions. The third track and previously released single ‘Psichebello’ is a gorgeous example of playing with different tone colours and layering instruments to create interest through different textures. Cester’s layered and harmonised vocals are stunning and contrast well with the song’s instrumental segments, bringing in unconventional sounds as well as a crazy jazz flute solo.

Perhaps the most unexpected tune on the record comes in the form of an interlude called ‘On Top Of The World’. It functions both as a way to break up the album into two similarly sized parts and also showcases the strenth of Nic Cester’s voice is as it stands alone at the head of the track.

While several of Sugar Rush’s best tracks tend towards the experimental side of rock, Cester shows that he’s still just as adept as ever at putting together a catchy, fun melody. ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ is one of the simplest tracks on the album, instrumentally at least, and is a seriously catchy tune built around a toe-tapping funk riff.

Over the record, Cester flirts with many different influences, all of which serve to make this album one of the most intriguing and eclectic rock albums of the year. His undeniable talent translates into a debut solo album where each track is a departure from the previous, and one whose path is difficult to predict. It’s certain through this release that Nic Cester still has a hell of a lot more to give the world of music as a solo artist.

‘Sugar Rush’ is out now.