The Suckers EP is laid-back pop in the best tradition. The songs go down as easily as all the David Byrne comparisons would make you believe — and maybe even easier, because there are no avant-garde hang-ups here. From the sleek vocal synth pop of “Beach Queen” (the most clearly ’80s-retro of the songs) to the sing-along grandeur of “Easy Chairs” and “It Gets Your Body Movin,’” the EP hits (and continues to hit) all those melody-craving parts of your brain. The vocals sway and swell, and there is a distinctly island/summer/ocean vibe, most evident in the opening of “Afterthoughts & TV.” As the Situationists used to say: “Under the concrete, the beach!”
And apparently to co-singers Quinn Walker and Austin Fisher, what you do at the beach is sing together. The songs are built out of catchy tunes, yes, but it’s the slow rhythms, nonsense vocalizations, and big choruses that absolutely invite your participation. This is the most distinct difference of Suckers in comparison with other bands who participate in this newfound urban pop aesthetic: They always invite you in. The songs are never too aggressive, disquieting or difficult. They are sophisticated, eclectic and yet strangely simple. Other purveyors of this kind of pop (not just the names usually associated with Suckers, like Yeasayer and MGMT, but even other pop eclecticists like Santigold and M.I.A.) have something spikier, colder and more dangerous in their musical demeanor. It’s still pop, but there’s also something tricky about it. People like that. I like that. But the success of this EP is that it can satisfy both cold and hot — electric distance and vocal presence — while never seeming too robo-ironic or too hippie-camp-fire-y.
Part of this successful balancing act comes about because of producer Anand Wilder’s (Yeasayer) control over the constantly shifting instrumental landscapes of the EP. Every member of the band — including guitarists (mainly) Walker and Fisher but also drummer (mainly) Brian Aiken and bassist (mainly) Pan — is a multi-instrumentalist. But all the flutes, horns, keyboards, guitars, basses and more meld in a way that’s never too thickly “orchestral.” There’s space in the tracks still, so the music sounds more like friends who came together with a bunch of leftover instruments and happily experimented rather than a lame attempt at “epic-ness.”
This, of course, gets back to the essence of these four songs: their ability to be both big and small at the same time. Well-constructed and loose. Sleek and childish. Cold and hot. But what holds everything together (sucker-like) is the band’s ear for lush melodies. Those, ultimately, are the best argument for Suckers’ music, and what leaves us looking forward to more.