Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Band of Susans - The Word and the Flesh
"Favoring chaotic squalls of guitar noise and avant textures over the dynamics of conventional songcraft, the New York-based Band of Susans formed in 1986 around the core duo of singers/songwriters Robert Poss and Susan Stenger, longtime friends who reunited only after pursuing dramatically different musical paths: while Poss became a fixture on the N.Y.C. punk scene in the Clash-inspired Tot Rocket before joing Rhys Chatham's guitar ensemble, Stenger relocated to Prague, where she studied the theories of John Cage. Originally, Band of Susans featured Poss on lead guitar and Stenger on bass, rounded out by guitarists Susan Tallman and Susan Lyall (hence the outfit's name) and drummer Ron Spitzer; four months after forming, they issued their debut EP, Blessing and Curse.
In 1988, Band of Susans released their first full-length album, Hope Against Hope; both Tallman and Lyall departed soon after, and were replaced by Page Hamilton (a former student of Glenn Branca, a frequent Susans reference point) and Karen Haglof. After 1989's Love Agenda, Hamilton too left the group to found Helmet; he was replaced by Mark Lonergan, and following Haglof's exit, Anne Husick stepped in for 1991's The Word and the Flesh, which employed a more focused attack, typified by a lesser emphasis on reverb and feedback, to arrive at a more accessible sound.
Without the usual attendant line-up changes, Band of Susans issued 1993's dense, droning Veil, followed two years later by Here Comes Success, a uniformly strong collection of lengthy pieces including the instrumental "In the Eye of the Beholder (Song for Rhys)," a tribute to Poss' mentor. In mid-1996, Band of Susans dissolved, although Stenger and Poss continued working with Wire's Bruce Gilbert in the trio GilbertPossStenger in addition to mounting other projects. - J Ankeny