The shaggy, sloppy form of music we used to call indie-rock has given away to bands with austere harmonies and Grizzly Adams beards trying their best to line up probable future dates being backed up by the New York Metropolitan Opera. And that’s fine — for the Grizzly Bears, the Fleet Foxes and the Bon Ivers of the world. But the kind of indie-rock Modest Mouse and others were making in the late ’90s has been buried along with our “ironic” trucker hats. If Brooklyn’s Suckers have their way, Modest Mouse’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News will be remembered less for indie’s breakthrough in the middle of the last decade, and more like the gospel for making indie-rock today. These dudes might as well be Paul, Matthew, Luke and Mark to Isaac Brock’s Jesus.
Which is not to say the songs on Wild Smile are an easy spot-the-Modest Mouse-influence zero sum game. Suckers also clearly dig on Bowie, TV on the Radio and David Byrne, too, just like every other uniquely dressed band playing in Williamsburg right now. But while the scepter of Modest Mouse hangs heavily over Wild Smile, there aren’t many bands doing this kind of throw-everything-into-the-pot-and-come-up-with-new-“pop music” type of thing anymore. Suckers even know their way around ear candy a little more astutely than their forbearers, delivering a thrilling debut album full of fist-pumping, spill-your-beer shout-alongs that surpass the group’s well-received debut EP.
Wild Smile bears one holdover from Suckers here; “It Gets Your Body Movin’,” the track that made Suckers a potentially big-tent band instead of just another group of arty dorks from New York. The song also fits in here better, because the bulk of Wild Smile bears the candlelight anthem atmosphere of “Gets Your Body Movin’.” From the schizophrenic lead single “Black Sheep” and the synthy and rail-jumping “Love Like Cancer,” to the bleary-eyed balladry of “2 Eyes 2 C” and the sauntering grooves upon grooves of “Roman Candles,” Wild Smile has more anthems than the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Not bad for a group that started out having to appeal to crowds by dressing like they were superheroes from the Labyrinth-inspired future. (They used to don silver capes onstage.)
For all the fireworks that come earlier, closing track “Loose Change” might encapsulate Suckers most completely, in that it captures them sounding so effortlessly ready for the spotlight. It’s the kind of song that will kill at sunset at music fests, and should launch Suckers into the next level of indie stardom. In a season when Brooklyn’s finest are launching disappointing bombs — Yeasayer’s hokey Odd Blood, MGMT’s crash-and-burn-on-purpose stunt of Congratulations — Suckers fire off Wild Smile, an album that exceeds all possible expectations and lays down a challenge for all debuting bands this year.