The Pursuit of Happiness

Band of Susans

I talked about Band of Susans earlier in the week and today seems as good a time as any to expand on that brief mention.

The late 80’s were a fertile period for experimental rock and Band of Susans (so called because there used to be a lot of people called Susans in the band) were one of the best bands of that era. For 10 years between 1986 and 1996 they released 5 full length LPs and a couple of EPs. Their simple approach, constructing songs from a number of guitars playing simple motifs, however produced a tremendous wall of sound.

I’d heard of them but first was introduced to them in a live setting as part of a Blast First package tour with AC Temple (previously mentioned on MPT) and Steve Albini’s Rapeman. BOS were the best band of the night and I quickly bought debut LP ‘Hope Against Hope’ and each subsequent one as they came out.

Sometimes they would write good riffs more than songs but they were a fierce proposition. I think their three finest LPs are ‘Hope Against Hope’, 2nd LP ‘Love Agenda’ and fourth ‘Veil’. Their other two though are pretty good though. At their best though, either on stage or in the home with the volume cranked up on the stereo, BOS songs are almost a wash of rock noise in which it is very easy to lose yourself.

I was able to see them live twice more, once supporting Throwing Muses at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh, after which I was able to speak briefly to main man Robert Poss, then as headliners touring 3rd LP ‘The Word & The Flesh’ at the Rooftops in Glasgow, a show that lost some of its potency because Poss’s co-vocalist Susan Stenger had a heavy cold.

The band went their separate ways after the, surely, ironically titled ‘Here Comes Success’ in 1996 although Poss regularly surfaces as part of the New York (and wider) avant garde guitar scene, working with Stenger and Bruce Gilbert of Wire. Robert released 2 solo LPs in 2003, which are both more fractured than his BOS work and are even less song based. Robert though is obviously a good sort – when I ordered one of the LPs from Trace Elements, he also sent all sorts of goodies with the CD.

Here’s a couple of BOS songs. The first is one of my favourites and unlike ‘Hope Against Hope’ from the other day, it’s sung by Susan Stenger. The second is back to Robert:

Band of Susans – Hard Light (from ‘Love Agenda’)
Band of Susans – The Red and The Black (from ‘Veil’)

Band of Susans records are still available from Amazon and other dealers and I would urge you to investigate their LPs further if you like either of the songs I have posted this week.

An excellent official unofficial BOS site.