For all the glories bestowed upon artists, deservedly or not, that only induce further comatose egos to spring to life (burgeoning like the Poplar trees along the Brahmaputra in April) swaying heads and arrogant lips the size of fault lines delirious in the shadows of magazine covers, the buck has to stop somewhere.
Susanna! Oh Susanna
Glancing out of my sleeper bus descending through skeleton tree outlines and the starkest sky, the mountains of Northern Luzon aghast in purple clouds and the collapse of the Philippine sun, my ipod light glowing as the words spelt out: Susanna & The….. I pressed play, closed my eyes, and began to impartially (sic) listen. The seat was uncomfortable. The scraggy looking American couple had conveniently brought some beers along and were anxiously searching for their bottle opener. The father/daughter in front of me seemed animated in conversation. Two locals draped across their seats like ill-placed jackets asleep in their torrential snores.
The point is, my attention was elsewhere.
Rarely has a record that has garnered so much attention from even the moody twat’s in Britain done so little on first listen. Second listen. Third… even Fourth. I am left in a state of mild panic at the possibility that in my arduous task of researching and diving back in time to discover lost gems of the 50’s, 60’s 70’s, perhaps I have completely lost touch with the music of today. After a moment of anxiety I reassure myself that there is still good music out there, and I’m aware of a fair amount of it. This, however, is not good music.
The more I listen to it, the more the album becomes muddled. Confused voices interspersed with instrumentation that lacks real foundation, a sort of floating sphere that holds no depth or vitality, only it’s shape. Quickly forgotten songs, based almost entirely on vocal melodies reducing the “magical orchestra” to the blurry background of a dark band-photo. Musicians strive for hours in the studio to replicate or copy other bands that have inspired them or spurned them to become a band. They unlock their chords, purchase the same pedals, guitars, amplifiers, all in the hope of sounding/looking/feeling/being like their idols. Almost always this approach fails due to the simple fact that talent overshadows fake gusto. In Susannah’s case there is no denying that many people will be romanced by her voice, so clear/frail/bloated, however even her voice has it’s limits and its biggest detriment lies in her lyrical artillery. Her simplistic grasp of the English language has littered this record with lyrics ranging from the cringe-worthy to the downright embarrassing. Waves of nostalgia bring me back to the clubs in Shimo Kitazawa in the late 90’s when I would sit and listen to Japanese bands belting out ” I am wrong, you not strong, lets fight, everything alright” with all the fevered passion of a first love affair.
For 4 minutes my criticisms fell flat until I realized the song I was listening to was, in fact, a Roy Harper cover.
What music there is on the album is mostly driven by her _________ (enter own opinion) voice while the plings and plongs of various keyboards and drum machines only seem to create an underlying feeling of suspicion. The music would not stand on its own. Alone she would just be an accapela songstress. She knows her voice is not strong enough to carry the record, and yet lacks any substantial musicality to create lush textures or wonderful oceans of sound in which to get lost in for hours and hours…. I can almost picture her walking around a dull park warbling into a voice recorder and then handing the offshoots to her “music dude” to try and clothe in some type of musical garments. For the lack of a better word: Faffing.
The rest of the mess is made up of either bands with all the image and no songs or vice versa. Susannah falls plumply into the pile of band’s who tag along on the crest of an already formed wave and hope that nobody notices they haven’t earned their stripes yet. I am aware this is not their first album, however, by now they should have sorted out the various anomalies that undermine their potential in creating something truly passable.