I really enjoy reviewing multiple releases by the same artist, band or performer, as it’s fun to see how things change (or don’t). Suavity’s Mouthpiece vs. Music is the second release by the band that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, after The Passion of Suavity’s Mouthpiece. And boy, did they ever change.
While there were industrial undertones in The Passion, the majority of it was based around big band sounds. In Vs. Music, the palette is flipped; there are horn undertones, but it’s primarily an industrial/electro release. From the grinding, dissonant tones of “Sex Me Into a Straightjacket” to erratic synths of “Fire Me (Again),” this whole release is much more brittle and brutal than Suavity’s previous work.
This means that, intended or not, this is a lot closer to what people would consider rock than before (which was almost entirely absent in the first release). Just see “I Get Abstract,” which sounds somewhat like Mindless Self-Indulgence. Granted, MSI isn’t normal either, but everything’s relative in experimental music.
Songwriter J. Trafford’s chaotic sense of arrangement still holds; these songs are not for the faint of ear. Some of them sound like audio car wrecks in the amount of abrupt changes, without even mentioning the noises created. But, as in the previous release, it doesn’t seem the work of an inept composer — just an incredibly idiosyncratic one. This is best proven on “Fox Kraski,” which is proof that, if he feels like it, Suavity’s Mouthpiece can write a normal, pretty pop song.
Then again, “Crisis Welcomed” pairs some of the most painful noises SM has made with some of the most normal rhythms, making for an incredibly odd tension. “I Don’t Know Shit” is simply uncategorizable.
Suavity’s Mouthpiece vs. Music is definitely recommended for fans of experimental music. Trafford has a vision for his music, and this is the second time I’ve heard him bear that out in a hi-fi, well-recorded, totally crazy release.
Sometimes “experimental” is code for “lazy reviewer,” especially if the band has some talent but uses it in annoying ways. Just put that label on it, and there’s a bunch of people who will check it out simply because it has that title. But in the case of Suavity’s Mouthpiece, there’s really no other way to describe the music succinctly other than “experimental.” For instance, genres that get play here include: big band swing, industrial, elevator music, jazz, modern acoustic pop, ’50s-style pop (complete with period oversung vocals), and funk. Note that traditional words like “rock” and “indie” are completely absent from that list.
So, it’s a bit of a challenge to describe The Passion of Suavity’s Mouthpiece. The most ubiquitous piece of the sound is the big band, which appears in one way or another on almost every track. I don’t know if it’s a real live band or a digital recreation, but it sounds great, either way. The swing rhythms of the big band lend the underlying rhythms to every song, whether that rhythm is picked up by a Spanish acoustic guitar (“I’m Sick of Your Tedious Girlfriend”) a fifties-styled goofy pop song (“Looks, Looks, Looks”), or a dreamy ’50s pop ballad (“The Brains of Flies”).
Then, right when it seems that Suavity’s Mouthpiece has taken a big band and forced it into genres it’s not supposed to be in and forced it to work, Justin Trafford (born Justin Antoszewski, formerly performing as Sinclair McRickson) hangs a right at “Your Least Favorite Song.” The rest of the songs are Spanish guitar ballads with big band and electronica contributions. Once you get used to the abrupt changes in style that compose the style of Suavity’s Mouthpiece, even these seemingly disjointed songs sound somewhat cohesive.
I’m not saying that these are normal, by any means. Trafford sings, “I don’t think you understand how different I really am” in “Matinee,” and I don’t think I do. Because all of this experimentation doesn’t come about because of amateurishness or even as a cover for poor talent. Trafford has a great voice that he molds into several different sounds to fit the genres he travels through. When he lets the acting go and just sings, it’s remarkably calm, composed, and confident. Trafford could be making normal pop and getting really successful doing it; he has the voice, the songwriting skill, and the charisma to do it. But he prefers making the incredibly lucid and experimental pop of Suavity’s Mouthpiece.
This is an incredibly well-realized release. It’s recorded beautifully, written carefully, and performed with glee. It’s also performed in genres, idioms and styles that have been largely abandoned by modern pop music. That will make it challenging for some people to get into, but anyone who enjoys stuff outside the norm will find a treasure trove of sounds, rhythms and moods in The Passion of Suavity’s Mouthpiece. Interested parties can download it here.