Thursday, March 29
Better than: A dive-bar jukebox stuffed with the hits of The Shirelles and The Thompson Twins.
There are a thousand ways for an up-and-coming band to raise their profile these days, and it’s safe to say that The Suzan are familiar with at least a couple hundred of them. They’ve caught the ear of an already-established act (Peter, Bjorn, and John in this case), signed to a high-profile label (the first rock act on Fool’s Gold), and had their music get on national TV (shilling for large corporation in an ad, Verizon and the NFL). Having a solid debut, 2010’s Golden Week For The Poco Poco Beat, doesn’t hurt, either; its sly take on rock gives a “big sound” feel to the clever hooks of early Violent Femmes.
But they’re not averse to taking the old-fashioned approach—playing New York City as many times as possible, and with any band that’ll have them on a bill—to building their name, either. The Suzan hardly go a week without playing somewhere in the city, and often schedule several shows throughout the five boroughs over a seven-day span.
When the happy keyboard that opens their single “Home” kicked in last night, it felt like the missing link between girlgroups and synthpop had finally been discovered, and it was full of “aaahs”, xylophone sounds, and summery, eager-to-please choruses. Getting the single out of the way is a good sign that a band’s looking to experiment, and The Suzan delivered. “It’s new song night!” lead singer Saori (this is one of those “no last name” bands) exclaimed. The new tracks sound light, but in a different way—gone is the girl-group feel of “Home.” Instead, “Never Land,” a dedication to the band’s home city, has an electronic touch. There’s also a new one about their old home town, “Tokyo,” which is about as wistful as one could imagine The Suzan getting.
But The Suzan are not about wistfulness. They’ve brought people out to dance, and they don’t disappoint. A tell-tale sign of their constant performing is their stinginess—they’re able to get many sounds out of only a few instruments. Keyboard settings are key to a Suzan set, changing from the previously mentioned xylophones to a full-blown horn section at the flick of a wrist. . But the secret weapon’s gotta be Ikue on bass. Always steady, but on the louder jumpers, like, “Elephant”, where the band starts to take on an aggressive dance front—”I’m like a tiger/ 1, 2, 3 STRIKE!” go some of the lyrics—the bass is loud and fast, daring the crowd to move faster. Yet it does seem like, on the whole, they’re leaving the middle ground of the generic “60’s influence” and moving toward extremes: lighter-than-clouds electronic bloops and jazzy dance-punk riffs, sometimes even on the same song. By the end, a full-out funk stomp called “Uh-Ah,” everyone was dancing.
This was where the band’s “play with anyone” strategy really started to reveal its advantages. Their music is fun and universal enough for the NFL to want in, and clearly, the crowd at the Delancey did, too. Someone interrupted the set to ask The Suzan just who they were. Ikue told them, and added that CDs were available in the back. Building a fanbase one IRL person at a time? That’s a marketing strategy just crazy enough to work.
Critical bias: Perhaps most offensive of the openers were Motive, who made it all too plain that they’d listened to Is This It and “Sex on Fire” a lot.
Random notebook dump: Guy who introduced himself to me as Tom Verlaine, but who was clearly not Tom Verlaine: Why did you do this?