Fuel's 'Sunburn' Still Holds Up

Fuel plays Proof Rooftop Lounge on Saturday, June 9 in support of the 20th anniversary of its full-length debut album, Sunburn.
Photo courtesy of Fuel
Fuel plays Proof Rooftop Lounge on Saturday, June 9 in support of the 20th anniversary of its full-length debut album, Sunburn.
Truth be told, Fuel – anniversary or no – likely would have drawn a good crowd for its afternoon show at Proof Rooftop Lounge this Saturday. Sure, the band – in celebration of the 20th anniversary of its full-length debut, Sunburn – is playing the album in its entirety this weekend, but that’s a mere side plot to what will be on display when the band takes the stage on Saturday afternoon.

Nostalgia sells, particularly when it’s done well.

When Brett Scallions (the only founding member of Fuel still in the fold) and company emerged during the late 90s pop-rock boom – alongside such bands as Foo Fighters, Third Eye Blind, Lit, Everclear, Blink-182 and the like – they were viewed as a sort of overnight success. This isn’t entirely accurate.

Yes, Sunburn marked Fuel’s full-length major label debut, but it was far from the band’s first attempt at mainstream success. Hell, the band cranked out three independent EPs and another from Epic Records before Sunburn finally saw the light of day in March 1998.

Even when Sunburn finally found its way into stores, it wasn’t exactly a hit. While it did eventually go Platinum, Sunburn only peaked at No. 77 on the Billboard Top 200. But, in a time when such a thing was far more possible than in today’s musical climate, the band earned its way into mainstream success via terrestrial radio.

“Shimmer” is a song very much of its time. The '90s were littered with songs layered in metaphor but which were so damn catchy, their intended meaning was essentially pointless. “Shimmer” is very much one of those songs. I, and likely many others, have known each and every lyric to “Shimmer” for the better part of two decades, all the while oblivious to its actual meaning.

I always viewed “Shimmer” as telling the tale of a relationship that was once great but has since fallen on hard times, hence the whole “all that shimmers in this world is sure to fade.” Not only do the lyrics support it, but busted relationships were among the foundations of '90s pop-rock hits. Turns out, not only is “Shimmer” deeper than that, the song itself is based in actual fact.

Carl Bell, who wrote and played guitar for Fuel from 1994-2010, penned “Shimmer” after being contacted by an ex-girlfriend a few years post-breakup. Turns out, she was trapped in a bad marriage and was in a pretty bad way. When you re-examine the lyrics, this actually makes a hell of a lot of sense. But that’s kinda the point.

Sure, “Shimmer” has a direct meaning, but it’s a song that means different things to different people. For some, it sparks memories of lost love. For others, memories of leaving home and starting anew. Hell, some online have labeled it some sort of anti-abortion song (this is inaccurate, but still). And that is why both “Shimmer,” and the album from which it was born, live on to this day. They made people feel then, and they remind people of what it was like to feel now.

Disagree? Early bird general admissions tickets for this weekend’s show sold out well in advance, and this show will draw, but I digress.

is an album chock-full of these types of tunes. I don’t pretend to get the deeper meanings of tracks like “Sunburn” or “Bittersweet” same as I don’t pretend to understand the deeper meanings of late '90s classics like “Everlong.” Great singalong tunes are great singalong tunes, which is why they age so well to begin with.

Sunburn isn’t even Fuel’s most successful record. The band’s follow-up, Something Like Human, peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard charts and eventually went Double Platinum. That said, Sunburn is unquestionably Fuel’s defining record. In an era defined by this very notion, the album was made by unsure early-mid 20-somethings for unsure early-mid 20-somethings.

Some two decades later, I’d like to think those former 20-somethings are now semi-well-adjusted adults with a far greater understanding of the world and their place in it. That said, for an hour or so on Saturday afternoon, it’ll be nice to look back on a time when life’s little uncertainties were the only real certainties at all.

Fuel’s show is scheduled for 2 p.m. (doors open at 1 p.m.) on Saturday, June 9 at Proof Rooftop Lounge, 2600 Travis. For information, call 832-767-0513 or visit $13-$70, plus fees. This is an all-ages show.