More subtle, but equally intense and powerful
mianfei | 06/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After the brilliant Love Agenda, Robert Poss, Susan Stenger and drummer Ron Spitzer toured extensively across Europe and North America with several guitarists, of whom Anne Husick and Mark Lonergan were to stay with the band until its final break-up in 1996. Although the band was well-received in Europe by critics, the same difficulty of marketing their music prevented them coming any closer to anything approaching a mass audience than in their American homeland.
At the tail end of 1991, the Band of Susans released their third full album "The Word and the Flesh" and a covers EP, Now. Following up the remarkable balance of delicacy and fire achieved on "Love Agenda" was always going to be difficult, yet the opening track "Ice Age" possesses all the power of the band's previous albums, but Susan Stenger's voice sounds weightless in the same manner as Joni Mitchell on parts of Hejira. "Now Is Now" is still more abstract, yet the visceral guitar lines that had always been a trademark of the band were in no way lost. With Page Hamilton gone, the guitar solos become hard to find but when you do notice them, one hears a most remarkable multiplicity of textures that very few artists have ever produced. The layers of melody at the end of the song are quite stunning once you understand them.
The following two tracks with Poss on vocals, "Trouble Follows" and "Plot Twist" are less ethereal and more in the aggressive vein of the earliest incarnation of the band. Poss' passionate, ringing guitar is a notable highlight of the former piece: a static melody that never loses interest, whilst "Plot Twist" is the hardest-hitting piece on the record yet lacks the childishness that somewhat marred the band's first album. "Silver Lining" is equally fast and hard but has lyrics and vocals so ethereal that very few hard rockers would be likely to listen, whilst "Tilt" is quietly droning in a very slow but harsh manner with guitar feedback that grows denser with each minute.
Stenger's two other vocal performances, "Estranged Labour" and "Sermon on Competition", are the most otherworldly pieces on the album, their lyrics and music clearly reflecting the distance the Susans always stood from the musical mainstream with their unique, often contradictory approach. The closer "Guitar Trio" is a tribute to Poss and Stenger's mentor Rhys Chatham and is in its own way as effective as their own remarkable compositions.
All in all, a worthy follow-up from an unknown but unique band who managed to show the true potential of interwoven guitar feedback in a way unmatched by much more famous bands who too often succumbed to clichéd punk/pop. The Susans never did that: instead they made music that was both visceral and truly ethereal - quite feminine in its own way and lacking the machismo seemingly inherent in music so hard - to an audience that was always going to be tiny."
C. Stubbs | Stamford Lincs UK | 01/31/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Please bear in mind any review i may write is just how the world appears to me....If like me you have been intending to hear this band for the last few years but have not managed to get any of their records yet then save yourself time and money, dont bother. This album seems to be regarded as the bands best (even by the band)but it just seems to show why any form of success eluded them. They had potential but never managed to be a good band. There are a couple of glimmers of light on the album Trouble Follows and Estranged Labor show signs of promise but these just arent enough to make up for all the other half baked songs a lot of which just fade out withuot having gone anywhere. Then theres the unconvincing vocals of Susan Stenger and Robert Poss buried low in the mix to try and disguise their lack of tone. A god awful drummer with a terrible drum sound (think cheap drum machine at the bottom of a well)also low in the mix for more than half of the album. worth convincing a freind to buy. sorry but thats how it seems to me"