Suckers: Wild Smile

That thing on your face while you listen to this infectious, unwieldy set of songs? I believe Suckers titled the album after that.


Wild Smile

US Release: 2010-06-08
Label: Frenchkiss
UK Release: 2010-06-08
Artist Website
Label Website

Before we get to the new Suckers album, let's run down a quick list of overused adjectives that get thrown around a lot in reviews. You know, words like psychedelic, dreamy, blissed-out, druggy, expansive, lush, and so on. You get the idea. These terms get used, sometimes, because they're useful keywords that give a quick insight into what you might expect from an artist. But they're also sometimes used -- and I've done this, admittedly -- in place of really figuring out what's going on with a band's sound. They're used because what the band does is slippery, and rather than spending 500 words tracing a sound back to its disparate roots, we go with a quick phrase. It may be economical, but it's also, let's admit it, a bit lazy.

This all comes up because, well, Suckers are damned slippery. Wild Smile, their first full-length record, denies easy summary or genre tags. It's hard to pin any of those adjectives on these guys. And yet they are the words that came to mind as I listened to the record over and over again. Why? Because Wild Smile is awfully good, but it's really hard to explain what makes it that way.

There are a few things that stick out about Suckers, though, on this record. The first is that these guys are songwriters. It sounds simple, sure, but what these guys achieve on Wild Smile is no small feat. They craft eleven distinct and catchy songs. Each track has its own feel, and yet as a whole they come together nicely into a cohesive, arresting musical world.

And while that world has walls around it, they are far off in the distance. The rhythm section on Wild Smile is downright stunning, both grounding these lofty songs and giving them the space to roam. The drums can clang away on "Roman Candles", loosening up the track, or tighten up on songs like "Black Sheep" to reign in the wandering keys. The bass rumbles subtly on "You Can Keep Me Running Around" or snaps off notes on "Martha" to fill the space between those thundering drums and the high plink of the guitars. The combination of the barreling rhythm section, the spiraling high-on-the-neck guitar riffs, and the layers of vocal melodies -- with all the echo and space around them -- could be mistaken for something hazy and impressionistic.

If Wild Smile were just that, they'd have a decent record on their hands. But if you live with this record awhile, you'll find that is a clear-eyed and carefully constructed set of songs. They don't rest on blurry sound, like so many lesser bands would. Is there reverb and gauzy texture to all of this? Of course. But the sharp riffs of "Before Your Birthday Ends" and the arresting melodies of "A Mind I Knew" cut through the atmosphere rather than hiding behind it.

Above all that, though, the band has a secret weapon: frontman Quinn Walker. What ultimately separates Suckers from a lot of other new bands is their undeniable energy. Instead of resting lazily on atmosphere, and meshing his voice in with all these tangling sounds, Walker brings a circus hawker's wild-eyed zeal to these tracks, not to mention something close to vocal schizophrenia. He goes from lilting croon to quick-fire yelp on "King of Snakes", baits us with an unassuming mumble on "Save Your Love For Me" before unleashing an unworldly falsetto, and holds onto a smoother version of that falsetto for the soul-jam of "Before Your Birthday Ends". It also helps that, along with his crazed energy, Walker lacks even a hint of self-seriousness. In fact, he may test you with that ultimately campy vocal delivery on "Before Your Birthday Ends", or with the whistling into to "Roman Candles", which may remind you of the closing scene of Full Metal Jacket both in how silly and unsettling it is.

But therein lies the charm of Suckers. They are a tight-as-hell band with an original and arresting sound, but they'd rather stomp their feet than stare at their navels. I don't know what to call the sound they find on Wild Smile, and I don't always know what to make of its goofier moments. That, though, is exactly what makes it such a compelling record. Whatever you call it, whatever title you try and stick this unruly, wonderful album under doesn't matter. Because the name you give it has nothing to do with how, come album closer "Loose Change", you'll be singing and clapping along with the rest of your band. And that thing on your face while you do it? I believe they titled the album after that.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.