Daring to be adventurous on your debut album can be a dangerous game, invariably leading to accusations of lack of direction and throwing in everything but the metaphorical sink. However, Montreal’s Suuns seem to have got the mix of adventure and restraint just right on Zeroes QC. Although there are times when they misfire, this is a startling first effort from the band.
Armed For Peace kicks things off, starting life as a wounded keyboard riff. As it drags its beaten carcass along to the sound of a drumkit collapsing, Suuns finally pull the rabbit from the hat and transform a glitchy death-croak of a song into some quite dark and unnerving rock ‘n’ roll. Essentially a face off between instrumentation at opposing ends of the redundant authenticity spectrum, the basic premise of this song at some level appears to be the triumph of the guitar over the stylophone’s bid for world domination.
It’s this face off between straightforward rock and electronic honks that lays the foundations of the Zeroes QC. Although Primal Scream led the way with the transcendental motorik Vanishing Point and XTRMNTR, there’re not too many bands that have taken up the challenge to create successful hybrids of Krautrock, electronica and balls-out rock ‘n’ roll in recent years. Suuns are about as far away from the Nu-Rave likes of Klaxons or the oh-so-clever nuances of Foals; instead they’re prodding at the darker side and getting filth under their fingernails.
Take the dirty drone of Gaze, which introduces itself with a raucous clutter and then keeps itself buttoned down into a motorik groove. Ben Shemie’s delicate, dreamy vocals are carried along on a relentless wave of strangely emotive slate grey guitar lines. As the song wraps pounds its way to a logical conclusion, a wave of unexpected free-form skronking sax enters the fray, kicking out against the oh-so neat patterns of everything that preceded it.
There are a couple of instances where the band drop their focus, notably Arena which feels generic and disinterested despite a noisy last minute bid by a squalling guitar. PVC meanwhile relies too heavily on the guitar, settling into a safe laid back groove and refusing to do anything at all.
A couple of clumsy efforts are, for the most part, of little concern when surrounded by the likes of Pie IX. Here, the band are in better form with a jelly-bass headfuck of a tune that grumbles like an underfed Jah Wobble, and manages to sound savagely industrial despite Shemie’s vocals sounding like he’s affectionately stroking the chin of the studio cat.
A brief foray into guitar shrieking, cavernous drums and chiming frenzy courtesy of Marauder finds the band delivered at feet of the seven minute prog-a-thon Sweet Nothing. This humming, swirling adventure along an autobahn crowded with dinosaur rock bands sums up the scope of Suuns vision perfectly, mixing their myriad influences with style and never once wandering off into the hard-shoulder of self-indulgence.
Up Past The Nursery pulls things back a little with its understated amalgam of spring loaded bass propulsion and funk laden guitars. With the band set in whisper mode, the hushed vocals of Shemie sit comfortably in the mix, providing his most effective performance on the album.
Closing the album is Organ Blues, a thrumming organ led haze populated by discordant squeals which doesn’t exactly end things on a high note as it neither settles for long enough to evoke a dreamy shoegaze state or mix things up enough to go out with a jolt. It’s a shame, but by this point Suuns have already proved themselves on this strong, but occasionally flawed debut.