Absent since 2012’s A Mirror Now EP London quintet Suzerain release their second LP Identity on 27th May. Produced by Grammy Award winner Steve Lyon (Depeche Mode, Siouxsie Sioux, The Cure) the once pioneering and innovative sound of post-punk gothic rock is in full evidence throughout.
The Curveish ‘Good Day’ features the contemporary line ‘I drink my energy drink … I feel completely at ease’ that elixir of heart-pumping sugary potion so prevalent in the bloodstreams of the quasi-developed, chronic diabetes awaits the sucrose generation.
‘Edging Out’ reminds of post-prog acts like Porcupine Tree and No-Man’s Tim Bowness, its meandering ambience hypnotic and beguiling, the wailing finale has echoes of Q Lazzarus’s ‘Goodbye Horses’. The Chameleons/Comsat Angels-esque ‘Always’ has got mid-80s college rock hit all over it, Molly Ringwald’s the obvious object ‘d’affection of clichéd geek, however, she pines for the jock, the lunkhead who’ll use and abuse her. The Cure loving guy-linered outsider will come to the rescue in time for the prom. Basically every ‘movie’ that sustains the Amerigun Dream.
Standout ‘Palm of her hand’ has echoes of US neu-wave-post-gothers She Wants Revenge, an unsettling number plied with menacing piano and shuddering bass, metaphors deployed all over the place: ‘red light … broken landscape’ before the admission that ‘my girl’s got the world in the palm of her hand’. What’s she gonna do with it, hey?
‘200’ is a melancholic run though a list of (endangered?) animals, ‘the Falkland Islands wolf’ anyone?? Although the ‘Liverpool Pigeon’ is Merseyside’s only micro-brewery, go figure. ‘Black and White’ is Modern English 2.0 (pseudo-modernism?).
This is a good album albeit too in thrall to the past to be great. Every song has the imprint of other bands, the sound too often of ‘then’ rather than ‘now’. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery this lot have nailed it. As a homage top marks, however, the period this evokes (1978 – 1983) was one that reflected and refracted the social context, acting as a prism and indicator of its time, arguably the last time the music was forward looking/backward disparaging. There’s quality in this band, they just need to ignore antecedents and become precedents.
Incidentally, a ‘suzerain is a superior feudal lord to whom fealty is due: overlord’. Basically the ‘royal’ harridan and her property portfolio that is the Commonwealth and its subjects. Democracy rules UKPLC, OK?