Suckers: CANDY SALAD

Tue Jul 24 2012

File under: bad first impressions, not as an insult but because Candy Salad is another example of something that’s easy to pick apart intellectually on first listen when you’ve been bombarded with INDIE ROCK for two decades, but then eventually some of the songs seep into your head and reveal themselves as worthwhile nuggets no matter how typical the overall sound is.  In the end, rock and roll is rock and roll, and maybe it’s harder to make something enduring and endearing utilizing a sound that’s been done to death, but it can be done.  We live in a world where first impressions are too often all you allow yourself to take in.  When it comes to music, at least, you can’t trust ‘em.

It took a few listens to shut off the comparisons, but eventually some very bright spots emerged.  “Nowhere” and “Lydia” are dominated by soaring vocal harmonies that might remind you of the poppier side of Animal Collective, while the driving slow-build of intensity is an old Arcade Fire trick, but it’s not as though you’d mistake Suckers for either of those bands.  There’s an aw-shucks playfulness bordering on ineptitude that characterizes this band, and sometimes you get the feeling that they’ve expended every ounce of energy they have just to keep these tunes from falling apart.  After three albums now, that could be good or bad: either they’ve managed to hold onto youthful innocence or still haven’t managed to get past it.

The only total clunker on the album is “Chinese Braille”; lyrically it’s unattractive and the whole thing is earwormy in an unpleasant manner.  Then again, “Turn On The Sunshine” is only marginally entertaining; there’s nothing wrong with incessant joy, but the lyrics border on vapid, cheese devoid of any apparent depth or creativity.  But following this one is the album’s highlight, “Lydia”, which shifts between amiably inquisitive melodic verses and a giddy chorus reminiscent of The Mamas & The Papas in terms of harmonic uplift.  “Figure It Out” and “Charmaine” owe a debt of inspiration to Wolf Parade and Modest Mouse in pretty much equal amounts; they’re stompy, precocious, catchy and just a little unpredictable.

There are lots of interesting layers of sound; “Bricks To The Bones” makes the best use of competing elements, but in some instances, like “Leave The Light On” and “George”, the songs might be more effective without the clutter or excessive reverb.  Most of these songs are good enough to stand on their own, but modern trends dictate that the more effects you pile onto the mix, the more likely the kids will lose their heads to it.  All things considered, the album is only about half good, but worth several spins just for its best moments.

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Cal Roach

Cal Roach is a word whore currently being pimped sporadically by Milwaukee Record and the Journal Sentinel, and giving it away for nothing right here at you-phoria.com. He also co-hosts the Local/Live program on 91.7 WMSE FM every Tuesday at 6 p.m. and spouts nonsense on twitter as @roachcraft.

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