Suplecs, Sad Songs… Better Days (2001)
If you ever wanted a crash course in everything right about the Man’s Ruin era of heavy rock and roll, look no further than Suplecs‘ second album, Sad Songs… Better Days. Released in 2001 as the follow-up to the prior year’s Wrestlin’ with My Lady Friend, its nine tracks still provide 15 years after the fact an abject lesson in how to offer kickass riffs with zero pretense, how to develop a natural-feeling dynamic not through production wizardry but through actually having one, and how to craft material that’s diverse in structure but flows front to back while asking so little of the listener that you and the record might as well be cracking a beer on the back porch together on a lazy Saturday afternoon, which, as it happens, isn’t a bad way to to enjoy Sad Songs… Better Days if cracking a beer is your thing. From the rolling and catchy groove of opener “White Devil” onward through the subsequent hook of “Rock Bottom” and down through the bass-led groove of the languid “Blue Runner,” the prescient shuffle of “Unstable,” which morphs into a secret cover of The Beatles‘ “I Want You (She’s so Heavy)” and “Lightning Lady” and the weirdnes that lies beyond in “Out of Town” and closer “Unexpected Trauma,” which also has a secret track attached — seems Suplecs wanted one per side; this time it’s a little countrified twanger instrumental — it wound up being the kind of album you listened to and could only nod your head in agreement: Yes. This is what it’s all about.
The story of Suplecs is complicated on some levels and easy on others. When I note them as essential to the “Man’s Ruin era,” I mean the period of between roughly 1995 to 2002 when Frank Kozik‘s Man’s Ruin Records provided a guiding hand to the post-Kyuss world of heavy rock. By the time 2000 brought Wrestlin’ with My Lady Friend, the imprint had already issued pivotal outings from High on Fire, Goatsnake, Brant Bjork, Alabama Thunderpussy, Acid King, Natas, Queens of the Stone Age, etc., and with names like that — bands who went on to define a generation of heavy rock, and that’s by no means an exhaustive list — it’s easy to see how Suplecs get lost in the discussion. Their beginning dating back to 1996 when bassist/vocalist Danny Nick, fresh out of Eyehategod joined up with guitarist Durel Yates and drummer Andrew Preen, they put their first EP out in 1998, but the two Man’s Ruin outings would largely define them, even after the label folded in 2002 on the eve of what would’ve been Suplecs‘ first tour of Europe. Timing is everything.
I recall being ultra-stoked to get a demo of new material from them in 2003 or 2004 at a Small Stone Records showcase at SXSW — still have it — and sure enough, in 2005 they’d release Powtin’ on the Outside Pawty on the Inside, a rawer third album that went largely unpromoted thanks in no small part to the effect Hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans, including on the band. It would be some six years before Suplecs managed to get a record out, and 2011’s Mad Oak Redoux (review here) found them aligned to Small Stone officially for the first time and pulling together the various sides of their sound with a crisp production from the studio mentioned in the title. In no small part, it was just nice to have Suplecs back. That was five years ago. Since then, they’ve continued to play sporadic shows — they have one on Oct. 15 in Nola with High on Fire, for example, and they marked their 20th anniversary in August alongside Dixie Witch — and Nick has opened a bar called Portside Lounge, so it’s not like they’re actually finished, but clearly priorities have shifted.
Still, I wouldn’t ever count Suplecs out. Hurricanes, folded labels, and the march of time itself — they seem impervious to all of it — so don’t be surprised when or if they show up with a new record. Until then, Sad Songs… Better Days, which was reissued on CD in 2002 on This Dark Reign and on vinyl last year through Emetic Records, is about as timeless as heavy rock gets.
I hope you enjoy.
Holy shit, this week. I stayed home sick from work yesterday and Wednesday and have spent the majority of the time since Tuesday afternoon wanting to grip myself from the collarbone and tear my body open to let my guts spill out. Absolutely demolished, particularly in the mornings, which if you read these posts is when I write reviews. In that way, it was actually kind of fortunate this week was the Quarterly Review — thanks for checking it out if you did — since the majority of it was done beforehand, but wow, it has been a slog. I think yesterday was actually worse than Wednesday, and I can’t really account for consciousness today either. I’m just trying to get through it to finish out the week at work and be caught up from not being in the office the last two days. Brutal.
I don’t think you’d know that from the amount of stuff that’s gone up the last couple days though. It’s been a busy week as well as crushing, and I expect no less next week either. Look out for streams and reviews from Varego, Melmak, maybe Captain Crimson and Lamp of the Universe, as well as a review of the Lo Sound Desert documentary that’s long overdue, as well as a Långfinger video premiere, a new clip from Dot Legacy that’s been making the rounds and news about Freak Valley 2017. Amazing to think that festivals next summer have started to announce their lineups.
That said, I’ve been experimenting with advance planning myself. I have reviews slated through Oct. 26 currently, and while that’s obviously a flexible schedule pending the stream offers that come in and stuff like that, it’s kind of reassuring to have a calendar and to be able to say, “Okay, I’m finally gonna tackle the Truckfighters record on this day, the Worshipper record on that day.” An extension of the impulse driving the Quarterly Review, maybe, since that’s worked out over a period of months before it actually goes live, but either way, thus far it’s made life less stressful rather than more and at this point I’ll take what I can get in that regard. See ripping myself open above.
It’s a three-day weekend for me, no work on Monday, but I’ll be posting anyhow. I hope to continue recovery from whatever the fuck it is that has besieged me this last half-week, and be back up to speed by the time Tuesday hits. Fingers crossed.
I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.