Isolate chunks of the music off of Suckers’ debut LP, Wild Smile, and it’ll be some of the best stuff you’ve heard all year. Their tone isn’t specifically unique (in a sense they’re just channeling some of the best in the indie rock scene) but less in the way that a child wears his fathers clothes when he’s not looking, and more like the manner in which a young prodigy idolizes his mentor. And it’s really not the genre emulations that make them so good, but the variety in which they’re utilized. Variables are king with this quartet of eccentric, oft-blogged about rockers; their scope is vast and they hit the nail on the head in each of their incarnations.
The open is epic, sort-of balladesque, hints of Spencer Krug, with volatile percussion and a stout falsetto on “Save Your Love For Me”. Next it’s off-tempo, frantic guitar rock analogous to later versions of Modest Mouse (“Black Sheep”) and earlier versions of Yeasayer (“You Can Keep Me Runnin’ Around”, “A Mind I Knew”). Suckers change tempo; revamp instrumentalizations; collapse and expand; and play with/tweak each of the cuts on the album with a live performance’s disposition. Each of these musical changes transition seamlessly, like acts in a play, until the whole album which performs terrifically as a complete work, is finished.
Despite its solidarity, Wild Smile has its fair share of individual highlights. “It Gets Your Body Movin” swirls its simple melody over flourishing horns and drums until the song’s titular task is completed. “Save Your Love For Me” opens the album with calculatingly expansive zeal, but it’s also phenomenally catchy throughout its slow development, and begs for another listen by the time it’s finished. “Martha”, however, is the real stand out on the album; it catches Suckers at their most evocative, heavily-layered and sweetest, garnished with a little biting acumen: “Don’t say that your hands and knees were made to pray/cause you’re a pretty good lay, so I’ll stay here with you”. Add the trilling keyboards, hand snaps and a salient trumpet and it tallies up to one of the most marvelous songs of the year.
Savvy listeners won’t find the quality of the first Suckers’ album a total shock, as the band has garnered plenty of hype around the blogosphere for about a year and a half now. But in a year with so many other fantastic, bigger-named records, Wild Smile is still a nice surprise. Regardless of a band’s status or popularity, it’s hard to find any record full of songs that don’t suck. At its worst, Wild Smile can be unmemorable, but the quality never lags. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Suckers’ next record establishes their own indie standards instead of revisiting old ones.