Full disclosure: on my first play through Suffrage, I accidentally had my turntable set to the incorrect speed. Because of that, my first judgement was that the band’s sound was thick, dark, sludgy and imposing – but it definitely piqued my interest and curiosity. I was fascinated by the hulking, demonic voice which dominated the song (“similar to that of Roger Miret,” I thought) and transfixed by the sludgy guitars in the mix. After that first play through, however, I noticed that none of the times associated with the songs on the back cover of the album matched those in the vinyl rip stored on my computer. Also, a quick study of Suffrage‘s liner notes revealed that the name of the singer in Fucked and Bound is Lisa Mungo, a fact which erased much of the possibility that, in reality, the singer might resemble Roger Miret in any way.
I had just done the unthinkable, readers. I had just listened to and loved an album played at the wrong speed. You hear about things like this happening, but just assume it’s an urban myth or some weird overstatement. Not true though – it really happened to me.
As I reset the speed on my turntable, I was quickly filled with dread. I had really liked Fucked and Bound slowed down – would the difference in speed somehow upset my opinion? As my turntable’s stylus sunk into Suffrage for the second time, I was still mulling that question over, darkly.
Not long after the needle picked up the groove on “Wild Thing,” Fucked and Bound had already beaten, screamed, slashed, batted and blown out of my head the possibility that I’d feel any differently about Suffrage when it played at the right speed. Right from the beginning, guitarist Brian McClelland grinds out a chord progression so violently that one might swear they can hear metal shavings falling from his strings, while the rhythm section (comprised of bassist Curtis Parker and drummer Matt Chandler) just bludgeons listeners into submission with their parts.
Even seconds in, listeners may already find themselves dazed by the assault laid out by the band, but the rough-cut gem is unquestionably singer Lisa Mungo’s performance here. Already rasping like Donita Sparks the morning after a hard-drinking and hard-smoking night from note one, Mungo rasps and wretches her way through a lyric sheet which is equal parts ‘intelligent’ and ‘infuriated’ (the first verse – “The needle is spinning retrograded/ These hind legs seen better shades/ Well, there’s no better sing/ Than to be a wild thing/ A wild thing” – effortlessly sets the tone) and instantly gets listeners onboard without even trying. It might not be the easiest thing on the ear, but listeners will find themselves hooked and spurred into action, without a doubt.
After the first blurt which is “Wild Thing,” Fucked And Bound just keep starting fire after fire right before listeners’ eyes – and most of them prove to be increasingly bigger and longer as the side progresses. “Get Inside” screeches through at three times its predecessor’s length (a minute and a half to “Wild Thing”’s forty seconds), “Dead Bop” plays like the grindcore antidote to pop punk (complete with a chorus which sounds like it might have been lifted from a pop hit – and then run over viciously by a Mac truck, of course) before actually lifting the title lyric from “Negative Creep” by Nirvana for giggles. “Zero Fucks” petulantly denies reason and accountability before “My Love” rages both vocally and instrumentally, and then “Party Void” just melts down beautifully to close the side.
Each of those tracks interlocks perfectly to present a perfectly solid assault, but “Party Void” proves to be the real ace in the hole. That cut contains the gaffe-sized hook which will inspire listeners to flip the record going; once again, Brian McLelland’s squealing and squalid guitar work shrieks and buzzes in just the right places and ways to hypnotize listeners and hold them battered but beguiled.
While it will take listeners a second to flip Suffrage over and set the needle in it, they’ll instantly realize that the album’s B-side continues precisely where its predecessor left off. After “Locked” falls into gear, listeners will be able to feel their eyes begin to widen spontaneously at the band’s attack and, when the track transitions into “Freaks On The Street,” they’ll find that they might be touching their faces to see if they’ve actually been melted a bit.
There, Mungo hits the ground already hoarse and howling as the band rips through a fantastic, 53-second ear-bleeder which plays exactly how one might expect a hardcore anthem drafted by a band from Seattle to sound; the lyrics are nearly unintelligible, but the energy and overdriven power of the song gets it over anyway because all the parts just align perfectly for any fan of hardcore. After it ends too, “#GTFO” follows up with a flawless aggro assault to ensure that those listening are locked in securely for the duration.
Of course, after they ARE lined up again, listeners will quickly notice that not every moment on the B-side of Suffrage is golden (“Punishers On Deck” suffers from a stunted, awkward and entirely too repetitive rhythm figure), but there are more than enough moments which can keep them engaged. When the side finally begins to collapse with the foot-dragging tempo of “Abuse Of Registry,” listeners will know that the end is apparent but will still be totally locked in even as everything begins to bog down and the mix becomes increasingly laden.
When “Abuse Of Registry” finally does give up the ghost and fades out on some feedback, those listeners who have run front-to-back with Suffrage will undoubtedly be winded from the experience, but not so much that they won’t consider beginning the album over again, immediately – those who do elect to do it again will ultimately betray the scope of their gluttony for punishment. In my own case, of course, I had already run through Suffrage twice as of this writing (once at the incorrect speed and once at the right one), and am still thinking about doing it all again. Suffrage is dark and violent and does not welcome listeners at all, but it is mesmerizing too – for the right minds.
Suffrage is out now. Buy it here directly from the band’s label, Atomic Action Records.