Suede Brothers. 13 Songs.
Bad Breaker Records, 2013. Suede Brothers: https://www.facebook.com/suedebrothers
It starts out heavy, sort of Van Halen heavy, tuneful but without the wiseass snear. The guitar solo is more like something from the 70s, kind of arena-rockish, but not in the negative way people use the term these days. The vocals remind me of Billy Squire, a strong tenor, out there, crisp/fuzzy, slightly modified by technology. The hook is memorable, and the instrumentation moves from foreground to background with some finesse. This song could have been a hit back in 1980.
“Desert Song” (not the oldie by Sig Romberg) is the opener and a damned fine tune, quite representative of the quality of music found on the latest release by the Suede Brothers, 13 Songs. Formed out of the Black Diamonds, in Perry, Ohio, their first album with their new name came out in 2007. This is their fourth. They mix old and new styles from the 60s to today without blinking an eye. Big drums, big riffs. Hard rock, stoner rock, Rust Belt rock--all have been used to describe their music. They list their influences ranging from Black Sabbath to Blue Cheer to punk and grunge, but you’re likely to find almost anything in here. You can hear whispers of just about any band, but the music isn’t derivative. That is part of their appeal, along with really fine musicianship and riveting vocals. (There’s another great guitar solo, towards the end of “The Doing.”--I’m listening as I’m writing.)
I listened to their other three albums, which all seem to have names, although I’m hard-pressed to find them on the CDs themselves (they show up on the laptop). Their first, Suede Brothers, tends toward blues-rock, while their second album a year later, I’ll New You, goes more in a straightforward rock direction with some metal influences (and a little “Radar Love” mixed in, along with what sounds like Britpop). The Night, their 2010 release, shows more sophistication in song structure, but still has both a blues and metal feel, while going for the bombast of the arena. (They just did a really nice psychedelic bridge on “Falling Apart”). All three are quite good, but 13 Songs kicks it up another notch in terms of song quality, greater range, and driving intensity. They don’t get to anything like a mid-tempo song until track 7, “Way Back Home,” which has a smooth Blue Öyster Cult feel to it. “Mean Muggin’” is an instrumental workout for everybody, with suitable feedback to end the song. (Oh, Lord, cowbell in “Time of Desperation”--I love it!). “Red Rondo” shows that they can rock out with a Brubeck-inspired tune, and from here, all the songs are a bit shorter, all under three minutes. Most earlier tunes ran from three and some to nearly five minutes. “Into My Life” is their only ballad, which for me, is the only song that doesn’t work so well. I know they need to mix it up, but it felt out of place on an otherwise heavy album. “Down 44” (the route?) winds things up with another instrumental.
This is the kind of album that is likely to be enjoyed by lots of different kinds of listeners, but all for different reasons. No, they won’t attract the singer-songwriter aficionados, but most hard rock fans will find something to please. The Suede Brothers is a group that seems to cross generations, and folks from the 60s to today will all relate. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish, but they have managed it. Strong songs, great guitar, and a driving rhythm section will take you a long way.
Personnel: Dylan Francis (guitar, vocals), Mick Varga (drums), Kevin Naughton (bass).
Tracks: Desert Song, Call It Done, The Doing, Falling Apart, Take Awhile, Blue Green Village, Way Back Home, Mean Muggin, Time of Desperation, Red Rondo, Setting Sun, Into My Life, Down 44.