Earlier this month, Suit of Lights released their album Break Open the Head. Suit of Lights is a musical project that was started by Joe Darone who’s played in a number of bands prior to this including The Fiendz and The Rosenbergs. You can hear Darone singing the vocals and playing keys, Chris Connors on guitar, bass and keys, Billy Carrion also on bass, and Corey Colmey on drums. Suit of Lights is based in New York City and though the band self-identifies as a rock group, this album is far from a standard rock album. Most rock albums contain songs that remain in one key and in one time signature. Break Open the Head pushes the limits of genre categorization and explores the capabilities of musical structure in just ten tracks.
The title track and first track on the album has a cool groove with offbeat accents on the hi-hat during the verse and then morphs into a half-time feel during the chorus. In accordance with the groove shifts, the mode of the music changes from minor verses to a more major sound in the chorus and instrumental break. The song “Break Open the Head” seems to be first so that the songs that follow illustrate what happens once the head (presumably figuratively) is broken or thoughts span outside of the box.
“New Frontier” begins with a spooky introduction on piano that’s passed off to the guitar. The chord progression throughout is a little unsettling as there is a harsh balance between tension and release. Featured on the track is an organ sounding instrument, or better yet, a calliope- type instrument that creates carousel or carnival music. The instrument comes in when the singer sings about a continuous carousel of time. That’s clever introduction to the timbre but the tones get a little distracting. The song is slightly unresolved at the end with the guitar feedback, perhaps indicating that the future is uncertain.
“Monsters” has a neat little 7/8 introduction that features a repetitive guitar melody. It’s all about getting rid of your monsters; it’s quite empowering. “Zero Camera,” along with others, frequently changes harmonically with the chord progressions. Though artistic, someone who doesn’t appreciate the theory may find it unsettling or too dramatic “Circle the Drain of History” features the lyrical line “monkey with brains all full of mush, about to get the royal flush, circle in the drain…” over and over again, perhaps to reinforce the concept that history repeats itself.
The instrumental prowess of the musicians is quite strong as, technically and harmonically, the backing works. But the vocals don’t match. The tenor tones are a little whiny sounding, almost in the vein of an acoustic pop punk vocalist. Some upper range notes sound like a push or slightly unrehearsed. The vocals are on key, but they’re not as strong as the instrumentals. The purpose of the album may simply be to stand as a work of art. It may be an album to spark change and stand for something more than notes and rhythms. In that case, it definitely succeeds in sounding unique and has some catchy lines that may stick in your brain. They’re not the easiest songs to sing along to as they’re very unpredictable in nature but, over time, they could become participatory.
Overall, it’s a quick album to listen through and interesting if you’re looking for a change from more mainstream artists.
Key Tracks: Monsters, The Beginning Is Near, Break Open the Head