Suit of Lights Give “The Creature” New Life on ‘Break Open The Head’
Do you remember when rock was young? Joe Darone certainly can, and his band Suit of Lights prove on Break Open the Head that you can rejuvenate big, bombastic, beautiful rock n roll without it being overbearing.
Rock music remains an incredibly successful and resilient creature, perhaps because of its gauche willingness to give the people what they want, rather than risk alienating the audience with new-fangled musical ideas. Keep it simple, keep it hard, and keep it the same. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, especially if you like a bit of Iron Maiden with your Horlicks. But don’t you ever long for something a wee bit different?
NYC’s Joe Darone has donned his Suit of Lights outfit once more for this long-awaited follow up to Shine On Forever, and Break Open the Head, is different in all the interesting places.
If you’re not familiar with Darone’s work as veteran of New York’s post-punk scene, then I urge you to investigate further. There you’ll find the linkage between the streetwise energy of the transatlantic new wave (with it’s faux DIY affectations), and the tech-savvy ingenuity of indie darlings like Tame Impala.
Break Open the Head was released last June, and it demonstrates that Darone has nailed down the role of the very able musical director, and made of it a very fine art. The Suit of Lights recordings have each been delivered with new layers of refinement, to the point where I’ve come to see Darone’s name as a stamp of quality in itself.
Perhaps he’s intriguing because much of his song writing seems to face in the direction of Great Britainshire, a mythical land that gave us the MopTops, Marillion and Marmite. He’s a self-declared fan of Elvis Costello, but Darone’s back catalogue suggests that he arrived at similar place as Glenn Tilbrook with his art through listening widely and absorbing readily.
A great song has to have heart, and for all the elaborate constructs he’s created within very sophisticated arrangements, Darone wears his empathy as a lapel pin. It’s discreet, it’s distanced, but it’s there.
The title track Break Open the Head certainly has soul, but it’s urbane in nature, and a little world weary in its demeanour. It also affirms Darone’s penchant for undulating melodic forms that ascend and descend like a rollercoaster at Asbury Park. But neither this song, nor other standout tracks such as Monsters and Routine. Ritual. Control. rely on doo-wop derivations. That’s the preserve of thatguy from New Jersey. Darone’s collegiate songs come time-stamped in the present day, and he has, to my ears, arrived at the point where his artistic voice is uniquely his own.
If the sound-upon-sound-upon-sound ambience of the album at first appears a bit over-inflated, then it’s Darone himself, with guitar sidekick Chris Connors, who pricks the balloon. There are piercing guitar lines that cut like shards of white hot steel through the buttery softness of tunes like Zero Camera, and I was strongly reminded of six-string jokerman Zal Cleminson, and in places of Brian May’s cultivated mayhem.
At times, Break Open the Head can feel a bit like being a pinball inside an arcade machine, and there is something of the ‘Carnival of Souls’ about Darone’s songs, particularly New Frontier. Yet on closer listening, you can hear that he actually reins in some of the excesses of obvious forebears such as Genesis, Queen and ELO. Darone may remain under the radar to many, but he will never be over the top.