* * * * * Suns * * * * *
[ Lewis and His Blog ] In the realm of local music, there are two kinds of bands: those that will always be local bands until they break up or dissolve, and those that will somehow transcend the limitations of the local scene and become something more. The Connecticut punk scene has had its fair share of both, and has produced numerous groups from the latter camp in recent years. Some, like The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, have made the leap through rigorous touring schedules and extensive self-promotion.
Others, like Hostage Calm, have done so thanks to a singular, definitive release that established them as a musical force to be reckoned with. With their new LP The Engine Room, the Fairfield County four-piece Suns now have the potential to reach the same level of recognition and influence as those bands and others. They’re in the right place to do so, but does this record properly realize the opportunity that their position has granted them?
To answer such a question, one needs to look at the band’s roots, and examine how they’ve progressed since those formative days. Suns began as a trio in 2008, and released a 3 song demo (fittingly called Three Songs) two years later. Their EP Be Good Boy, released last year, was the first high profile release for the band, and although I criticized it in my original review for bearing too much similarity to the trio’s parent band Midi & The Modern Dance, I recognized their talent and songcrafting ability.
At face value, The Engine Room is not exactly a logical stylistic progression from the EP, but the differences in song structure and aesthetic between this and Be Good Boy are understandable in context. Since the release of the EP, the three Wills (Rutledge, Ponturo, and Indelicato) of Suns have added a new guitarist to their fold, the fleet-fingered math rock wizard Peter Katz, whose former band Fugue crafted a distinctive blend of rhythmically complex instrumental post-rock before disbanding last year. Katz’ influence permeates nearly every musical aspect of The Engine Room, from the jarring, occasionally dissonant bursts of guitar noise on “I Could Have Made Time” to the spindly riffs that underpin tracks like “Happy Sounds” and “Whippoorwill Lane.” More than any other singular instrumental moment, the lightning-fast downstroke’d riff that appears about 30 seconds into the aggressive “Lover, Lover” is a particular highlight. Throughout The Engine Room, Katz’ lead guitar playing and knack for curious rhythms are undoubtedly what set this LP apart from Suns’ earlier, more basic punk rock material.
Even though the addition of a supremely talented new guitar player is the most immediate difference between The Engine Room and the older material, it’s not the only thing that’s changed. Although it’s fairly safe to say that Katz’ math rock background was the primary influence on The Engine Room’s more complicated musical foundations, frontman Will Rutledge has clearly made strides as a songwriter on this record. Instead of relying on literal declarations of self-hate and angrily chastising former girlfriends, Rutledge displays a more refined and eloquent lyrical pen here. He’s still bitter as hell and clearly upset about the same things, but it’s a lot easier to get through this record without wincing at awkward lyrical jumbles than on the EP. Furthermore, his lack of reliance on cheap, repetitive lyrical crescendos demonstrates a more mature songwriting ability and allows for more interesting songs overall.
The combination of Rutledge’s improved songwriting and the reinforced instrumental backing yields some pretty wonderful results on The Engine Room, particularly in the form of the single “Crocodile” and the closing title track. With its soothing, mulitracked vocals and arpeggiated guitar riffs, “Crocodile” builds up to a warning call chorus that intensifies with each post-verse repetition. By the time the song reaches its final minute, it explodes into a rage-filled surprise of razor-sharp guitars and screamed vocals evoking the early work of Tim Kasher in Cursive. The Cursive influence appears again in the bitter chorus of the title track, and throughout “I Could Have Made Time,” which plays out like a 3 minute version of “Crocodile’s” brief ending. Unfortunately, like much of Cursive’s early material, The Engine Room occasionally suffers from the band getting lost in their blind aggression and forgetting to make distinguishable, memorable songs. Thankfully, they balance that rage with some relatively subdued tracks such as the Pedro The Lion-influenced opener and the lovely acoustic piece “Machine Steam.”
So to finally answer that question that I posed at the beginning of this review, I can only definitively say that this record should give Suns the necessary gravitas to transcend local band status. If The Engine Room itself doesn’t, then I genuinely hope that at some point soon this band manages to do that through some other means. This is a band that deserves to be heard outside of Connecticut and its affiliated scene, and hopefully this record will make that possible.
Artist – Suns
Album – The Engine Room [ * * * * * ]
Release Date – 2012
Genre – Post-progressive, Math-rock, Post-rock, Post-math rock [ I LOVE THIS BAND / EXCELLENT ]
1. Repulse 02:32
2. Crocodile 04:03
3. Struggle 03:13
4. Happy Sounds 03:28
5. Lover, Lover 02:13
6. I Could’ve Made Time 03:29
7. Whippoorwill Lane 04:08
8. Machine Stream 02:11
9. The Engine Room 03:58
NAME YOUR PRICE Suns – The Engine Room
Artist – Suns
Album – Be Good Boy
Release Date – 2011
Genre – Alternative, Progressive, Indie [ I LOVE THIS BAND ]
1. Be Good Boy 02:42
2. Red Redding Blood 03:45
3. Fuck Me While I’m Down 03:56
4. Cold Steel 01:14
5. This Can’t Be Me 04:43
6. A Hallucinated Ending 04:04
STREAM + PURCHASE Suns – Be Good Boy
Artist – Suns
Album – Three Songs
Release Date – 2010
Genre – Indie, Alternative, Progressive, Post-punk [ I LOVE THIS BAND ]
1. Fuck Me While I’m Down 03:53
2. Machine 02:10
3. Casual 02:20
STREAM + PURCHASE Suns – Three Songs
The Same But 100 Times Better ~ Inertia Blooms ~ Gazpacho ~ Hoping To Collide ~ You Already Know
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