a brilliant mix of styles and sounds

Piloted By Ghosts (Suede Chain Mail)
Suede Chain

By Victoria Moon

When I saw this band live in June, I was blown away by their passionate, sensuous music, so I got their newest CD, Piloted By Ghosts, with great anticipation and curiosity. Was it just a one-night thing, or is this band really as good as I first thought? Two weeks of heavy rotation later I can tell you – they are better than I originally thought.

I'm trying to avoid gushing, really, but this project is amazing. I just can't remain objective – it's too good! This six-piece from Champaign, Illinois, creates music that combines pieces of alternative rock, blues, country, swing, jazz and even classical to make a richly-textured blanket of sound. It is rare, too, to find a band as focused on its lyrical content as its music, but Suede Chain offers up intelligent lyrics surrounded by infectious, singable melodies. Matt Doctor's clear, emotion-packed lead vocals are as intrinsic to the band's sound as twin brother Jason's drumming, Brian Krumm's guitar and saxophone, Jake Brookman's cello, Brian Hunt's bass and Mary Weingartner's violin. The addition of the violin and cello to this band push the band over the edge of good into brilliantly original, giving the songs a twisted, dissonant illumination.

A good example of this band's strengths is the song "I Love You Too Much." Beginning with a fun "Wipeout"-style intro on guitar, it moves into seamless songwriting, a melody that gets stuck in your head and humorous, pleading lyrics. Another standout on this album is "Gen-X (Shall We Dance?)," an ironic take on the curious appellation Generation X. The verse and chorus move with a "Just DO It!!" emphasis until the singer declares "I'm not afraid . . . Well, maybe just a little bit."

Balancing hope and despair, broken hearts with the memory of licorice and fingerpaints, Piloted By Ghosts breathes new life into the pretentious term "art rock" and gives its listeners an album full of moody, sweet melodies well worth a listen.