Sukilove have split up. After 13 years, 5 albums, 3 EP’s and many live shows the group from Antwerp have called it a day and broke my heart a little bit. Sukilove leave behind a very good looking corpse and a fine back catalogue that they can be proud of. It is rare that a group can combine being musically interesting and challenging with a left of centre pop sensibility that was always emotionally engaging. An audience member said to me at their last show at Atelier Claus that their problem was that they appealed to musicians, freaks and weirdos and were a little too strange for general consumption. Critical acclaim was easy to come by, but recently airplay and bookings had not been; combined with lifestyle changes and a wealth of other interesting projects that will be revealed in due course, the Sukilove train has run out of steam.
It’s a sad state of affairs when a group breaks up after making a record as bold and challenging and hard to categorise as ‘Drunkaleidoscope’. Sukilove never made the same record twice and although the common thread was the tunefulness of Pascal Deweze’s songwriting and charming vocal melodies that were full of melancholy. The introspective self titled first record was the template for the band and an excellent but very sad singer songwriter style record with only ‘Did You Ever Feel So Lonely?’ hinting at the discordance that lay ahead. They got more abrasive with 2004’s ‘You Kill Me’ even managing to rock out in a fairly normal fashion. The addition of Sjoerd Bruil on guitar and Tim Vandenburgh on bass on the ‘Good Is In Your Bones’ record changed the sound drastically from the first two records and songs became a lot more focussed on textures and the aforementioned harmonies. If every band must have it’s ‘In Utero’ moment then this album was it, the sound was rawer and contained harsher guitar tones and stranger arrangements on tracks such as ‘Snow’ and the disarmingly pretty ‘Let’s Dive’.
In my opinion the artistic high point was ‘Static Moves’, a record that managed to be icy cold, accessible and unaccessible at the same time and make a sing-a-long moment from the very true lyric ‘We’re all just meat, all just meat, waiting to die’ and then have a moment as pretty as ‘When You Smile’.
It’s amazing that on this last record Sukilove should practically invent their own genre of polyrhythmic white boy funk of ‘Drunkaleidoscope’ and come full circle with old guitar player Helder coming back to the group as a second drummer and percussionist. In between the ‘Sun, Sun, Sun’ EP provided arguably their greatest pure pop moment with some of the finest vocal harmonies of the noughties and in an alternate universe would have been a daytime staple hit. In typical paradoxical Sukiloveness the b-side was a Lydia Lunch cover. I remember one of many conversations with drummer Stoffel Verlackt about their unwillingness to take part in the ‘sound wars’ of having everything mixed far into the red and ‘if Sukilove stands for anything; it stands for quality’. In 2008 Sukilove’s relationship with Jezus Factory began with the co-release the ‘Natural Regression’ EP which preceded ‘Static Moves’ in the same year and several bouts of UK touring and further critical acclaim followed. I was always personally dubious of the responsibility of having a band which I always saw as having such a commercial potential being involved with such a small label as us; maybe to some degree I missed the point, Sukilove never chased the limelight, selling records and chasing ‘success’ was not something that they were desperate for or were against, if it happened it happened. I think personally I wanted and still do want the band to be recognised as the great great band they were. I hope that in an increasingly culturally revisionist climate that for Sukilove will be recognised posthumously, in the same way as Big Star.
I know that it’s not all doom and gloom and Pascal has something new up his sleeve and Black Cassette have a new record in the pipeline and everyone will continue to make good music that is beautiful but odd at the same time.
Andrew Bennett – Jezus Factory Records.