Suuns – ‘Images Du Futur’

The futur sounds menacing on the Canadians’ second

When the world, his wife and Radio 1’s Head Of Music were rubberstamping “the return of guitar music” at the end of last year, no-one actually specified what kind of guitars we were talking about. Heavy-metal axes? Jingly-jangly anorak-clad Rickenbackers? New boring acoustics? Or electrodoomrock weapons of psych-jazz eeriness? Suuns have bet the farm on the latter.

In fact, the Montreal quartet were already on the button a couple of years ago with debut album ‘Zeroes QC’, a twisted art-rock salvo of intimidating confidence that veered nauseously between dark funk freakouts, motorik odysseys and murky surf-pop travesties, and saw Suuns weighed down with the crown of our best new band of 2011. No pressure then, chaps.

Mind you, if they’re feeling the burden of expectation, they’re making light work of it. From the ‘Misirlou’ attack of opener ‘Powers Of Ten’ to the sparse ESG grooves of ‘Bambi’, ‘Images Du Futur’ (you know they mean serious business with that title) has the poise of a steel-sinewed athlete, production –from The Besnard Lakes’ Jace Lasek once more – as tight as last decade’s skinny jeans, and songs that shock anew with each shift in carefully considered momentum. Everyone mucks in with the heavy lifting – Ben Shemie on murmured vocals and clipped rhythm guitar, Joe Yarmush combining bass and guitar duties, Max Henry less prominent this time but still shaping the mood on synth, and Liam O’Neill piecing together an inspired mesh of syncopated beats – and the unit sculpts its menacing, brainy rock with a winning balance of power and restraint.

Yarmush in particular is a hero, bringing tortured effects to the tremolo strum of ‘Sunspot’ and making his guitar weep over the Factory Floor throb of ‘2020’ like Eric Clapton on that Beatles track – ah, you know the one. Together, Yarmush and Henry draw the clean, Clinic-meets-Kraftwerk lines of ‘Holocene City’ and splice ferocious riffs with synth glissandos on ‘Mirror Mirror’, as Shemie is threatened with submersion.

Shemie himself makes no bones about his vocals, just adding a dash of colour to the Suuns palette – don’t come here expecting Leonard Cohen wordsmithery, only coils of thought and a voice that worms its way into the fabric of the song. Now and then he finds wriggle room. ‘Music Won’t Save You’ almost swings – think Wild Beasts’ ‘All The King’s Men’ with one of those monstrous what’s-the-point-of-it-all? hangovers – but Shemie keeps it creepy. “Try as you might”, he sneers, “Sing the same old song/Your music won’t save you”. Each line is punctuated with peals of mirthless laughter.

And that’s where they leave us – bereft, but damned chipper about the state of ‘guitar music’ in 2013. On an album that rarely shakes off its shroud of unease, Suuns paint a pretty bleak picture of all our tomorrows, but their own dazzling ‘…Futur’ looks assured.
Matthew Horton