Wild Smile begins with the words:
Save your body. Save your mind. Save your love for me.
On paper, it sounds like a plea. Almost desperate. Please, it reads. Please don’t go anywhere. Stay with me. Save your soul for mine – they got along so well, didn’t they?
But put to melody, the lines take flight. Simple, repetitive, honest. Sincere, but playful. The meditative melody inflates the words like a hot air balloon. And right there, found in the first minute of Suckers’ debut album, lies what will become the band’s trademark, the quality that distinguishes it from every other kinda arty, kinda pretentious, kinda danceable new band that’s popped up in the last year. It’s Suckers’ sincerity. Wild Smile is often weird as hell, but we believe it, because it sounds like the band really believes it too. It’s the type of sincerity most often seen in children playing: they’re warriors on a cross-the-globe mission (while running around the backyard), they’re creating the Mona Lisa (out of finger paint), they’re building a giant castle (out of pillows in the living room). Wild Smile is the sound of Suckers playing — it’s serious fun.
“Save Your Love for Me” is a six-minute rock opera, featuring a sky-high falsetto blast from lead Sucker Quinn Walker. Who does that? On a first album, as a first song, no less? Suckers do. And it’s fantastic — the song could be a dozen minutes long, but the band’s relatable, believable sincerity would make every second worth it.
It doesn’t hurt that the music on which they pour this earnest energy is deeply, vividly visual, stylistically dissimilar as it may be throughout the album. The songs are often too big, too grandiose to be classified. They feel like looking up at a cathedral, or laying in a grassy field watching fireworks pop and sparkle. Words like ‘ambitious’ or, hell, ‘gargantuan’ would often be used scornfully while reviewing some new indie rock band, but not here. Music hasn’t been this irony free and overblown and exotically entertaining for longer than I can’t remember.
“Black Sheep” is a howl-along dance freakout, a flashing club light turned to half speed shooting every color of light on a mesmerized crowd. “Before Your Birthday Ends” features a straight-through falsetto bouncing through a spiderweb melody, spindle guitars chiming and a round, fat drum sound, momentarily ceasing only for a few-second guitar spasm.
It’s as weird as it sounds, but there’s no in-joke here. The band doesn’t sound like they’re slyly smiling. Allowing yourself to believe the music, the songs creep into your mind and dance as wildly as a Shel Silverstein cartoon. Infectious doesn’t begin to describe it. And, honestly, what feels better than music that truly crawls in and makes itself at home, hanging around your mind like a drug?
“You can keep me running around. Especially since we’re in the same town. Now loosen up those old chains that bound. From this precious lamp that we found,” we hear Walker chant in “You Can Keep Me Running Around.” It’s playful as Vampire Weekend, but sounds unabashedly sincere.
So we’re dealing with a lot of factors here. This is a record with layers of emotion, complex music and yelps and screams and tantrums and ballads and whirlwinds and dances and prayers and beeps and clicks and pianos, guitars and harmonies; it’s a lot to piece through. But it won’t take long — the music is so much fucking fun, before you know it you’ll be parsing through lyrics and scratching your head and, if you’re anything like me, loving it fully.
You’ll listen to “It Gets Your Body Movin’,” and you’ll want to grab a pint and a friend to sloppily howl along to the slow, almost mournful ode to kinetics. You’ll want to dance like a fool to the snap happy, island tropic dance-march “Martha,” which comes complete with a squiggling trumpet solo. Even the album’s poorest track, the just-a-bit-too-sloppy “King of Snakes,” may well spin you into a sizeable groove while blaring in the car. This is music that forces a reaction, and I’m willing to bet that for most people who invest some time, it’ll be a good one. Probably a great one.
“2 Eyes 2 See” is Wild Smile’s most dramatic flash of all. Over pounded, plodding drums, we’re told to “Call your dollar store Jesus. Ask if it’ll be easier.” It sounds like a Queen song after, say, three bong rips and a healthy dose of acid (editor’s note: not recommended). But it makes sense to end Wild Smile on “Loose Change.” The 5-minute track starts with a simple, spritely harmonized “Hey, ey ey, ey ey” and builds into a lullaby melody. But then the floor drops out and a ragged, rhythmic guitar line begins all alone, a rubberband bass bounds around underneath and a slow, barroom singing session breaks out. “Save all your loose change. Someday you’ll feel strange. Remember your name.” Gang vocals and all. It’s honest enough that to learn the song was recorded in the weirdest dive bar in America (I don’t know where that’d be. Something tells me Suckers do) with a cast of drunken friends wouldn’t be surprising.
Raise your glasses and smile. A wild one. Suckers have made the best, and most unorthodox, summer fun album in years.