More Than Food
There's a lot of music that, while I like, I perfectly understand why other people don't like it. It's too whiny or noisy or complicated or intellectual or emotional or experimental or sad or happy or silly or evil or whatever. But the Immigrant Suns are one band that I can't understand anybody disliking. A five piece, the Suns juggle guitars, cellos, violins, accordions, upright basses, drums, and really obscure stringed instruments (qyteli, bouzouki, and so on) playing international music. Their repertoire is heavily weighted towards the Eastern European sound -- think of Muziskas (who they cover live), Albanian wedding music, and Greek music. This isn't all, however; they also blend in Portugese, East African, and Irish sounds, as well as probably a dozen other musical traditions I'm unaware of.
Lest this sound horribly academic, like a musicology party gone awry, it's not -- in fact, it's intended to be (for the most part) a dance party. But whereas other bands (such as Brave Combo) that combine international music do so with a big wink and an elbow in the ribs, the Suns clearly have a near-reverence for this music, leaving even the most cynical listener converted. Notice I said "near" reverence -- they do create their own originals in these styles and re-interpret "classic" traditional tunes into different styles, and are more than happy to give their treatment to "Girl" (the Beatles song, rendered here in a six minute Greco-Irish rendition). They're not flawless -- the West African "Steel Edifice" doesn't really need to be 7:41, for instance. But the Suns fill me with such joy that such minor complaints seem silly in the face of their stunning musicianship and energetic performance. And, while this should go without saying, they are not to be missed live. Seriously, if you don't like this, I really want to know why. (DD/Fall 1999)
(Immigrant Suns -- P.O. Box 441314, Detroit, MI. 48244-1314; http://www.goodfelloweb.com/immigrantsuns)
Reluctant hardcore visionaries Integrity have reinvented themselves for the new millennium as Integrity 2000. The band is still Dwid's vision, but he has also enlisted the help of Jayson Popson from Mushroom Head and In Cold Blood. The result is pretty brutal, but if you get hit with a mallet in the head enough, you get used to it. As such, the disc becomes repetitive pretty quickly. I also was never a fan of Dwid's Lemmy-with-laryngitis vocal delivery, and of course, it hasn't changed a bit. It starts to grate on the nerves around the fourth track, and I find myself looking forward to Popson's vocals on the tracks that he appears on (track 7 puts the two singers in contrast especially well). Perhaps that was the intention, though. If this band is to become the next Slayer as predicted, they have some tweaking to do. Then again, Dwid was never one to conform to anything other than nonconformity. (MHo/Fall 1999)
(Victory Records -- P.O. Box 146546, Chicago, IL. 60614; http://www.victoryrecords.com)