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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Supergroups or superdupes?

All-stars run amok and look for (re)definition

Posted By on Wed, May 31, 2006 at 12:00 AM

"She may or may not be from the future, but she's definitely from outer space." That's the hazy realization on "2012," the moon-cheese pop nugget that falls midway through SSM's official self-titled debut. Yes, the astro-girl in question is gorgeous. But there's also the sense that she might've drugged the mash potatoes, because the motives of all the girls John Szymanski, Dave Shettler and Marty Morris encounter on SSM are obscured by fetching charms or some other kind of monstrous allure. The record's cover art even depicts the trio's spaceship crash-landing on a planet full of voluptuous bird women. Luckily they've come prepared. Szymanski's organ skitters tensely through the crawl spaces, synthetic percussion elements thread between Shettler's analog pounding, and Morris' guitar peals and howls from somewhere across the universe, a faraway bundle of gas and dust where Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Just Like Me" is the interplanetary anthem.

But there are grounding elements here too. Morris still relies on the raucous pop hooks that drive the Cyril Lords, and Szymanski and Shettler's rhythms are generally in line with their tenures in the Hentchmen and Sights. But the real thrill of SSM isn't in what it revives, but what it suggests about Detroit's rock future. Certain local standard bearers have moved on or moved out, while newer acts are exploring fresh sounds. The guys in SSM aren't greenhorns — they've each been around long enough for this record's undeniable hooks to sometimes sound like a final stab at extra-Midwest stardom. But their willingness to be catchy enough for the suburbs but still as dangerous as rock 'n' roll should be is what connects SSM back to this burgeoning local music changeover. It's OK to be marketable in 2006. Just don't sell your heart and your soul. And on SSM, the trio never broker 100 percent of either. "Candy Loving" and "Sick" bend new wave through a prism, and are can't-miss download hits. But the nearly seven-minute closer "Seer" is a slurping and spidery near-dub workout with more echo than a canyon, and "You're Next" alternates detached psychedelia with spiky lead guitar and an overdriven chorus. "You're next on my list of hearts I gotta break," it goes, telling those bird women what's what. And the rest of the conversation is lost in echo and sly organ, a sticky early-summer splutter of pop multiplicity that puts SSM on the cusp of space and maybe more.

Johnny Loftus is the music editor of Metro Times. Send comments to jloftus@metrotimes.com.

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