Though I think we’ve gotten over most of our sillier stereotypes about Canadian musicians, it is, nonetheless, somewhat startling the debut album by Montreal's Suuns kicks off with the sort of fearsomely lascivious groove Josh Homme used to bash out before he went out to kill his breakfast in the morning. The song is called ‘Armed for Peace’ and it kicks like some sort of demonic mulebeast, all louche electronic groove and alternately swaggering/staggering guitars topped off with Ben Shemie’s oddly high voice. It then promptly steamrollers into the ice cool, psychedelic malevolence of ‘Gaze’ and you know… COULD we be on course for the birth of a Canadian Queens of the Stone Age? A FRENCH Canadian Queens of the Stone Age? No, no. Obviously bringing nationality into this is a specious approach at best (though I’m sure living in a northerly former French colony founded in 1642 as opposed to An Actual Desert must have some impact). But Suuns are committed members of the cult of the eclectic, and what Zeroes QC demonstrates in range, it doesn’t really equal in coherency.
Over the course of the album’s sub 40-minute run time the band hit us with burbling, Holy Fuck-esque electronica (‘Arena’, ‘Sweet Nothing’), creepy minimalist throbbing (‘Pie IX’), a dash of shredding (‘Marauder’), a song that sounds EXACTLY like Clinic (‘Up Past the Nursery’), two pretty college rock ballads (‘Fear’ and the lovely ‘Organ Blues’) and only one return to the slinky menace of the early songs (the excellent ‘PVC’).
Which is the album summed up pretty quickly, really, but as we’ve got some more time here, let’s talk about eclecticism. Arguably, it’s perfectly reasonable for a band to make an album that’s totally all over the shop, stylistically, in this day and age. Sure, I’ve yet to see any genuinely compelling evidence for the death of the album as an art form, but it’s silly to pretend that listening habits haven’t vastly changed as a result of download and streaming technology; if you have a dozen different idea for how you want your record to sound, why not put them all into effect and not worry too much about the greater whole? Well, if nothing else, perhaps because a band needs a sense of identity, something Suuns palpably lack, despite their grab bag of alluring tunes. Near label-mates Women have proven that you can possess a pathologically diverse body of work and still give it a sense of coherency via the right sort of production. Here the Besnard Lakes’ Jace Lasek offers up a thin, lo-fi mix that doesn’t even really begin to reconcile the various aspects of Suuns' music. Even Shemie’s vocals don’t bind things excessively, seeing as how one of the few constant factors on the record is the scarcity of his voice on the songs.
Obviously, this is only Suuns’ first record; given that on it they not only tackle a half dozen different styles of songwriting but – in isolation, at least - tackle them well, the band would seem pretty well set up for a more coherent future release, should they choose to make one. Maybe they won’t, but really they should; Suuns don’t need to be a Queens of the Stone Age, but they have the potential to do more than just throw a cool clutch of songs together. Dammit chaps, we’re supposed to be creating art.
6Andrzej Lukowski's Score