Susan // Just Call It
Recommended Track: Pancake
Hail the rise of the mean girl bands…I think. Has cutesiness finally had its day? Escapist apolitical candy punk doesn’t appear to be ringing anyone’s bell anymore, not in this post-riot grrl revival scene with its increased spotlight on the female artists who are, on the whole, swiftly outpacing the boys when it comes to being the arbiters of their own history. Two or three years ago we bemoaned the throwback-y bleatings of garage-pop girl bands who were musically very competent and actively very passive in terms of challenging anyone’s notions about anything. Now we have Cherry Glazerr wailing about menstruation, Slutever freaking out about not being able to pay rent, and even Queen of Chill Colleen Green saying that she wants to grow up. Progress!
The songs on L.A. three-piece Susan’s debut EP Just Call It are fueled by exasperation more than rage, and the accompanying music plays like a gold standard of gooey girl garage. The songs are hooky and well-paced, the production is rich, there’s enough variation in the song structures to give the EP repeat listening value, and the vocalists have a nice interplay throughout. Really, this band crushes the modern girl group thing so hard, it’s mind boggling they’re not more popular (although that might change with an upcoming Burger tape, or it might not.) Susan also stand out in how good they sound on record: warm and deep and just lightly fuzzy, none of the tininess generally found in music like this. Turn it up or turn it down; Susan won’t blow your ear drums out either way. This EP sounds like what the first Dum Dum Girls record should’ve sounded like. It sounds like what any garage pop band worth their salt would want to sound like: too slick for lo-fi, too cool for anything else.
Susan’s music has the punky edge and sharp observations of Talulah Gosh and Shop Assistants with the paisley pop sheen of the Bangles (All Over the Place era only,) for an overall sound that plays like the anti-Bleached: less girl talk, more real talk. “You were, you were angry at the world, ooh cuz nothing goes your way,” the band sneers on second song “Frenchie”, sounding like a girl gang of Marcia Bradys (we’re Jan.) Then there’s the title track: “Just don’t call me and I won’t call you too,” they chirp, a pat response to the uncomfortable back and forth of unrequited affection using that classic pop metaphor, the telephone game.
Crunchy closer “Pancake”, featuring swooping female vocals recalling Emma Anderson and Miki Berenyi of Lush, finishes out with the Susan ladies triumphantly chanting, “I hope you die, I hope you die, I hope you die alone!” That this (very funny) line is so utterly, pointlessly mean adds to the appeal, perhaps is the appeal, but Susan should be wary of the line between cutting wit and just being an asshole, especially when it’s all they’re serving up. If you follow the emotional trajectory of this EP it essentially goes from “Tired of your shit” to “Get out of my life” to “I hope you die. Alone.” Ugh. Way harsh, Tai. That this EP is only three songs long saves the entire affair. Any more and the bitterness might have gotten a bit much for this listener but if sweet and sour melodic bitchery is your jam, Just Call It should push your buttons in just the right way.