Suckers ease you into their debut album Wild Smile
, building up from some non-confrontational jingling noises and delicate vocals to booming bass drum and in-your-face agonized wails, all in the first track. The buildup is their specialty-- layering simple, well-crafted riffs and short vocal phrases on top of one another, pulling the unsuspecting listener into their bizarre spinning mass of noises.
The repetitive, cyclic motion on the album lets the energy escalate to dangerous heights and sink to soporific lows without ever throwing you at a turn&mdash there seems to be one current that's sustained through the entire album. The layered, echo-y vibe that comes from the constant merging in and out of instruments recalls Arcade Fire, with a darker, more focused sound. Vocals range from children's choir to demonic opera, referencing soaring harmonies of Fleet Foxes, clear energetic tones of David Byrne, savagery of Man Man; all the while tied together by a raw, honest quality that at some times manifests itself as desperation and at others as tired tranquility. The vocals' raw fervor counters the super-electro instrumental backing, keeping the sound firmly human despite sometimes alien-worthy thereminic melodies. Heavy percussion both supports and counters the repetition, dramatic bass drum keeping it going while cymbal crashes help break it up. The drama and build-up make "Wild Smile" a modern take on an epic war saga, one of those symphonies overrun with tympani and bugle, that ooze majestic eagles, smoking cannons, and patriotic self-sacrifice.
Despite my insistence on the album's flawless cohesion, I'll not have you believe Wild Smile
is without its surprises. The happy-go-lucky intro to "Roman Candles" is definitely a moment that'll catch your attention, as is the childhood sing-along that concludes the album in "Loose Change". While the instrumental melodies in the rest of the album maintain a light synthy, guitar-pop sensibility and the nigh-manic vocals that abound may be in high spirits, the intensity and fervor lean the overall sound towards a darker vibe. Surprises are welcome; the two weaknesses of the album are in the occasionally directionless or distracted moments during mellow passages, and the close calls on cheesiness when the beat gets a little too predictable and dance-y, a little tooSaturday Night Fever
. But the tribal cacophony that is Wild Smile
picks up the slack from these duller moments without much loss.
To oversimplify: Suckers take a beautifully compiled bank of a few riffs and a few vocal tricks, and throw them into every imaginable combination to construct an album that's an impressive balancing act. Juggling their instincts of slow and fast, upbeat and laidback, weird and normal-ish, sinister and animated, they've got all the elements and Wild Smile
is perfectly choreographed chaos worthy of listening to on repeat for sure. -selden paterson
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MP3: "A Mind I knew" (Wild Smile)
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