Hot Suede are another of those bands that randomly come to my attention and send me scrambling to learn more about them. This time it wasn’t Facebook though, but, instead, it was a compilation CD from a print magazine that made me sit up and take notice. Hot Suede does not want to be put in a box as they bring together a multitude of influences that really establish their own identity. It also perfectly sets the stage for them to continue to explore their sound in the future. If you enjoy rock music (which I gather you do since you are reading this), I suggest you keep reading or pop over to their Bandcamp page and listen while I talk about this one. Hot Suede hail from Kansas City which has possibly worked to their advantage in creating their own sound on their debut album. To be fair, the only other band that immediately comes to mind from the past couple of decades for me is the awesome Paw.
Perhaps the ’70s are the best place to start as Hot Suede clearly pull the foundation of their sound from a time when rock did not have a million subgenres in different puddles of water but was instead one big ocean. They then add in some power and crunch of a band like Queens of the Stone Age to create something new and fresh while also feeling very familiar. ‘Roll a Bone’ features a cool groove that immediately make Brett Southard (drums) and Chad Toney’s (bass) impact felt right at the beginning. Bobby W. Topaz’ vocals are powerful and assertive with a clear tone that has many dimensions. Add in some clever guitar work by Doug Nelson and Scott Reed, you have a song that captures the attention but does not overwhelm you with a chorus. It is instead subtle and insidious as the song will be there in your brain later… trust me. ‘The Otherside’ incorporates a hooky chorus that is again not over the top but extremely effective. The hard rocking beat and guitar riff working perfectly in unison. There is a breakdown in the middle of the song which serves to ram the hook in even deeper. ‘Forget About You’ was the song that made me dig deeper as the band takes a hard-driving beat that lets Topaz propel the song with some nice vocal transitions with a razor sharp hook that reminds me a bit of Brother Cane without the southern influence.
The bluesy hard beat of ‘Get What You Came For’ provides an awesome take on modern rock but would also sound at home on a classic rock station between Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. There is a great tone to the guitars throughout the album with the band also benefitting from a great mix that really lets everyone be heard. The quiet intro guitar riff of ‘Watch Me Burn’ turns into a rocker that provides some bounce as it picks up steam, but it is made more powerful by working back in the quiet guitar riff again after its first run through the chorus. A jangly riff brings us ‘Make It Harder’ with Topaz trying to entice every female listening with his crooning in full effect. It provides a much different musical slice to end the first half of the record but just as effective at planting hooks in us that we will be humming and singing in no time.
‘Got It Made’ turns up the speed to start the back half of the record with a sound reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age set against a more traditional rock chorus that is simple and very effective. Next up is ‘Interlude’ which contains some backward vocals and twisting musical notes over its minute long existence. It sets the change for ‘Tell Me’ very well as the song really feels different from the first half of the record. The beat by Southard and Toney is awesome with the guitars embracing something moodier, perhaps a bit of Pink Floyd. I don’t know if the record would have flowed the same without the change that the ‘Interlude’ brings.
‘Occasional Lover’ finds the band bringing forth much more of a Queen influence. The band settles into a great groove and unleashes an outstanding chorus. At six minutes, this one would struggle on traditional radio but is one of my favorites from the album. The breakdown in the middle of the song allows everything to come to a halt before it builds back up for the end where I wish it would have had one more chorus. ‘The Trail’ reminds me a bit more of 90’s rockers like Tonic or Naked who borrowed elements of grunge, college rock, and classic rock to create catchy songs that people could quickly pick up and sing, but they also add some Pearl Jam inspired musical goodness with the instrumental break. Closing out the album, Hot Suede bring forth ‘Good Maroon’ which runs under 2 minutes and serves as a nice acoustic based outro for the album.
Hot Suede make a very favorable debut here that will get plenty of plays from me this year, and I look forward to hearing what they do next. They bring plenty of variety to the table here so they can continue to branch out in the future. Give the album a sample on their Bandcamp page and don’t be surprised if the songs keep pulling you back.
‘Hot Suede’ is available now
Author: Gerald Stansbury
Considering his epic catalogue of releases I don’t think I can recall sulo ever making a “Bad” record luckily this very ambitious release can also be added to the ever impressive list. Diamond Dogs, The Crunch or Solo he has his distinct vocal and can easily flip-flop between styles sure they’re all Rock and Roll but this is a far gentler side of his work. Especially the ‘Nightshift’ side as it might suggest. Piano acoustic guitars duets its fairly standard arrangments for sure but the quality of the songs shines through. ‘Time To Alight’ is a wonderful and simple piano and guitar song with sparse backing vocals. I think its fair to say that if Sulo wanted to create a soundtrack to the dead of night then he has achieved that with some to spare. It’s gentle and soft in places and its personified in the albums title track with some beautiful piano rolls that sort of put a full stop on proceedings.
Sulo has always had great musicians working with him to compliment his writing and this is no exception. I love the swirling organ that stabs through the bleakness like on ‘I Swear To God I Don’t Believe’ I love the grandness of the backing vocals. Considering this collection has twenty seven songs it ebbs and flows wonderfully I know it won’t please everyone but if you want the guys gentler balladeering side then it’s here and if you want the Rock and Roll that’s present too the only thing missing is the punkier side but that’s why he does the Crunch I guess. Sure I think its fair to say you will be drawn to one CD over the other be it the darker melancholy side or the more uptempo and light side, me I’m somewhere in between as I think the best songs are on ‘Nightshift’ I do love it when he delves into that whole Faces groove but here its not quite that simple as ‘Brilliant Outsiders’ has got its country honk going on. If you ever liked someone like Chuck Prophet then you need to check this out – lap steel, duets, country honk Sulo has arranged for a whole record of players to duet with him from Stockholm to Florida and Nashville to London and everywhere between have lent a helping hand. He’s even managed to rope in the UK finest Country Band Los Pacaminos to back him up. So it would seem you can also add this style to his ever-bulging portfolio. It’s not quite the stretch you might think but the songs are authentic and sound like they’ve been brought from a good place and a happiness and Joie de vivre captured within.
‘Bring Down The Angels’ is fantastic and the band lives it up on ‘God Damned Jesus’ did somebody mention Mellencamp meets Waits meets Waylon? Oh, it was me. Well, that’s the ballpark we’re playing in here. I think its no good thinking you’re going to hear the Diamond Dogs or Crunch because that’s not going to happen you have to keep an open mind and just let the music flow. whilst it might have been an experiment too far for a lot of people for many others I’m sure an appreciation for the guy’s songwriting talent will win them over. Me – I’m happy to hear whatever Sulo throws my way I think he’s a talent we should champion no matter what style he delivers next. If you don’t raise a smile by the end of ‘A Song For Every Train’ then I feel sorry for you.
Author : Dom Daley