SUCKLING – Suckling (2023)REVIEW

Street preaching a load of weird rock dread with an electric organ for a pulpit the seasoned troupe feeding into the Austin, Texas-based Suckling rhythm machine arrive upon their debut full-length moment with more than a sound but a voice well-prepared to hit the ear-brain barrier with raw estrangement, a smirking sorta alienation that doesn’t prevent the action from feeling it in practice. Four folks playing the wrong sheet music from the last hurrah, an apocalyptic cult’s impromptu finale shindig, ‘Suckling‘ takes us to anxietous freakout rock party by devotional means, going to nigh psychedelic lengths to serve a surrealistic yet sincere form all their own. A sticker on the brain for the eclectic, unshockable rock fan and a catchy-ass melee of a record in general.

Suckling features folks from Austin’s weird rock scenery past and present between organist/vocalist Ezra Reynolds who plays in White Powder with bassist Win Wallace who played in Gorch Fock with guitarist Brett Bradford who’d played in Scratch Acid with drummer Rey Washam who is kind of a legend when we consider his work in Big Boys, Rapeman and Ministry (among others). Together they’re a lot to describe, a reasonably charged act to take in and ‘Suckling‘ is record which serves good time overall, whipping up plenty of notable personality up front; Their first EP (‘Suckling‘, 2018) had a certain gloom about it, a garage psych meets noise rock guitar buzz that took a few action rockin’ left turns without breaking its syncopated, anxious swing, clearly built to feature Miller‘s keyboard/organ work without losing their common ground of alt-heavy/noise rock what with all the charm a B3 brings. Tension was the key factor in those early performances, a stiff neck balanced out by the greater loose-fisted fuss they’d stirred up in the rhythms and accoutrement. This full-length basically follows up on that idea by indulging in hymnal rock n’ roll/post-punk theatre without resorting to parody, or cheeked irony to get a leg up and kicking.

Suckling‘ is one part acid-washed rock comedown and a second hit of cowboy ready noise rock subversion, timelessly bluesy heavy psych absurdism out of a two car sized confessional from an act who’re leaning way, way more The Screamers than ‘Into the Unknown‘ by design, playing distraught psychedelic punk rock n’ roll which has me thinking about keys-conscious early 80’s The Damned for all the jaw-yanking bravado available but not hitting that kind of eclectic pop rock faith per ‘Strawberries‘ and nearby, instead going kinda devotional, jammed and jangling to slightly more early 90’s alt-church buzz. Eh, their cover of The Stranglers‘ hit “Duchess” does actually go there but they’re not about to maul a proper crowd pleaser. This side of their gig showcases first within opener “Praise From an Undertaker” and its gradual peel into rapture but it isn’t long until the whole picture reveals within “With a Little Bit of Spit” and “Sisyphus” where we get keenest compromise between ironic existential dread and joyous rock hustle.

For my own taste the best stuff Suckling are putting out there hits between the lines, specifically within the frustrated ‘Vegas Throat‘-era Barkmarket twist to the rhythms of “Mean a Nine” and “Unemployment Beach”, each of which manage their own unique verve while building on the tension-rich style found on the band’s first EP. The right balance between big vocals, big keys, and a centralized rhythm guitar voice can be found somewhere in the midst of those pieces. It doesn’t always work out, though, as I’d found “Anatural Rejection” had the right hook in its vocal cadence but the piece fell a bit flat otherwise, and I wasn’t sure where or why we’d ended up in the doldrums of “Ninth Life” as the album ended but I couldn’t wait to jam the skip button and start over. In fact outside of the Frank Black-feeling gloom of “Desert Flower” I’d just as well have skimmed most of Side B after the tenth or so spin through the full listen. It all works together in descent, though I’d found myself most rewarded for running it back within the first six or so songs on the album.

Suckling are a freak on paper and an easy to gel with good time in practicum, there’ll be no way to get around it without resorting to some kind of elevator pitch which reduces their soup down to stink — “Organ jammin’ progressive noise rock n’ roll” will have to do ’til you know better. The electric organ does such work on this album that it manages to be the keystone and the crooked puzzle piece at the same time, a surprisingly effective glue for anxious yet bluesy noise rock shuffle and devotional heavy rock theatre alike and I’d found it beyond entertaining per my own experiences at the fringes of punk, psych and heavy rock permutations. It isn’t an easy recommendation to the general public, I figure you might have to be exactly this weird for entry. A moderately high recommendation.

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