The best BoS album
korova | Varosha | 09/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the one to get, especially if you're new to BoS. With better production than the earlier albums and tighter songs than the later albums, Love Agenda is a compelling mix of loud guitars and enigmatic lyrics.
The three way guitar interplay between Robert Poss, Page Hamilton, and Karen Haglof make this an album to play extremely loud.
One star deducted for wussy drums. Otherwise, definitely worth seeking out at your favorite used record shop."
Unmarketable, but hits you on every level
mianfei | 02/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Students of Glenn Branca, Robert Poss and Susan Stenger turned to rock music in forming Band of Susans in 1986 with drummer Ron Spitzer and a number of pairs of guitarists to create a unique, layered, aggressive yet melodic three-guitar attack. Unlike contemporaries Sonic Youth, they never fell prey to the failings of punk/pop, yet their debut album was still often distinctly childish in its lyrics, offsetting their well-developed sound.
"Love Agenda" was their second album, and is now best-known for featuring future Helmet frontman Page Hamilton on guitar. Nonetheless, his work is overshadowed by Poss and Stenger. Poss' loud, punkish falsetto contrasts remarkably with Stenger's gentle, throaty contralto, but they both work very well. The dense, interlocking melodies and Ron Spitzer's aggressive drumming produce a sound that is truly unique but might be described as a much harder version of the "shoegazer" rock prominent in England at the time.
"The Pursuit of Happiness" is a stunning opener with some of the most tense, yet tuneful playing you are likely to see. Although they play with the aggression of a heavy metal band, Band of Susans combine the directness with an truly feminine melodic sense to produce an emotional tour de force that never breaks down over five and a half minutes even as its mood changes in a subtle manner over and over again though short solos by Poss and Hamilton.
The eerie "It's Locked Away", with Hamilton on lead vocals, provides a darker, slower yet less intense contrast, whilst on "Torniquet", "Because of You" and "Which Dream Came True" Poss' high, but straight-ahead voice complements explosive playing to excellent effect. Even if Band of Susans might loosely be playing hard rock or even "hardcore", they never become at all pompous, overblown or tuneless as traditional exponents of these genres do. Stenger's vocal efforts on "Birthmark" and "Hard Light" are, in contrast, touchingly beautiful but the music is still loud and does not let itself burn out. The slow-burn of these songs is very much "post-rock" and rivals Spiderland.
For all "Love Agenda"'s impressive accomplishment, Band of Susans were never going to find a large audience. The contradiction in their work between deeply feminine layered melodies (they always had at least two female instrumentalists which is remarkable for a band playing the sort of music they did) and the aggressive straightforwardness of their rhythm section and Poss' high, hard-hitting voice produced a blisteringly emotional sound - far too loud for college rock and way too feminine to be hard rock or metal - and ensured they would baffle both listeners and critics thorughout their career. Yet, "Love Agenda" hits on every level as a seamless work from start to finish. (Look out for the original 1989 CD version with their brilliant cover of the Stones "Child of the Moon" with Stenger on flute at the end)."