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Keep Your Eye on Sullen

Posted by January 20th, 2004 No Comments »

"Paint the Moon," not to be confused with the Silencer's "Painted Moon."Sullen
Paint the Moon
By Graham Isaac

Packing two low-distorted guitars, a wallop of drums and no bass, at first listen Sullen sound like they could have come out of the early ’90s wash of grunge, metal and post-punk. At times sounding like Sonic Youth, Hole, or The Pixies, the first listen to Paint the Moon is the best sort of flashback.

"Paint the Moon," not to be confused with the Silencer's "Painted Moon."Sullen
Paint the Moon
By Graham Isaac

Packing two low-distorted guitars, a wallop of drums and no bass, at first listen Sullen sound like they could have come out of the early ’90s wash of grunge, metal and post-punk. At times sounding like Sonic Youth, Hole, or The Pixies, the first listen to Paint the Moon is the best sort of flashback.

What keeps this from being merely a nostalgia trip (“I remember when bands sounded like this!”) is the fact that through the benefit of 20/20 hindsight Sullen have strained out all the unnecessary elements and genre divisions that seemed so necessary at the time and are content to rock the noise into their own molotov cocktail. Lead singers Shanna Kiel and Justin Slazinik trade vocal duties from track to track, sometimes harmonizing or ganging up for ear-brutalizing screams at the climax of the song. The sound is generally big and loud, but Kiel and Slazinik have obviously paid enough attention to their Fugazi albums to know that a well timed breakdown or blast of dissonant feedback does wonders for both the listener’s interest and the “rock quotient.” There are no ballads to be found here but there are enough hook-driven numbers such as “Working Man,” “No Sleep,” or “Watch That Girl” to fit nicely between screamers like “Girls are Gross,” “Boys Are Worse,” and “War Forges On.”

As you probably guessed from the song titles, Slazinik and Kiel bring in the very modern take on sexual hostility, ambivalence, and dissatisfaction. If they were a Screamo band, you could easily expect to find any number of their “fuck you/fuck me/fuck off” lyrics posted in user bios on Makeoutclub.com or any other underground online pedoph– er, dating site. While 90’s-influenced rock seems to be enjoying a slight resurgence with groups like Burning Brides, Sullen work an artier vibe at their best moments, and it’s the role they should stick with. At their worst, they come off overly generic, or like they’re riding the coattails of friends and labelmates Local H. At their best, Sullen prove they’re a band to watch. (7.5/10)


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