Lovesucker are playing a type of music they call “Gypsy soul.” That actually prepares you pretty well for their sound, unlike so many self-assigned genre tags. They’re working with a mix of strong vocals, blues/soul/funk bass and some folkish guitar strums. Despite their stated goal to forge their own sound it isn’t exactly unique. If you’re inclined to enjoy the elements they’re working with the first listen, if you skip the off-putting lead single “Mississippi”, is largely pleasant. You’ll no doubt WANT to like this musical duo, but there’s a few things in the way.
Let’s start with the opening track and lead single “Mississippi.” It nicely packages all the problems I have with Lovesucker and puts them right up front. The first is that Crystal Crosby has very little nuance to her singing style and has the bad form to mark out Etta James, Grace Slick and Tori Amos as an influences. Maybe these kinds of influence callouts bother me more than others, but listen to any song with any of those women and tell me that punchy shouting directly on the beat is what they are doing. Sure they’ve got volume for days, but it’s Grace Slick’s tremulous wobbling that makes her performances so harrowing. Tori Amos can be downright playful in her approach to a tune. Etta James slides from nearly conversational to lung bursting bellow like it’s nothing. It’s like listening to a guitarist hammer out power chords and then cite Yngwie Malmsteen as an influence.
That isn’t to say that Crystal Colby is bad exactly, but she has a long way to go. Mostly she is loud, which is a good start. She is capable of the occasional pleasing snarl, which is better, but she is a good many hours of practice away from the nuance and control of her influences. Whatever the reason, her performance here falls largely flat, can make lyrics difficult to understand and grates over the course of the EP.
In the case of “Mississippi” the most easily understood lyric is an absolute abomination of cutesy speak that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Perhaps calling an S “crooked letter” and P “humpback” are local color that I have simply never heard before, but I suspect that it’s a cumbersome way to add “menace” to spelling of a goddamn state. Spelling rarely benefits from an injection of faux menace.
And here lies what I think the crux of the issue is, with only two members the band allows far too many bad decisions to get through the filter. There’s not enough creative tension. Even the voice of an outside producer might have helped to let these songs mature a bit more. One gets the impression that first set of ideas that worked got recorded, and this record is not nearly raw enough to let that slide.
Musically Zoltan Von Bury is clearly most proficient with the bass, but lends more than serviceable organ, drums, guitars and etc. to the mix. His organ playing especially is often a welcome life force. He mostly lays down a musical bed for Colby’s vocals though. I don’t mean to sideline him so much. He’s crafted a good sound for the band. I LIKE it. It slithers and pops exactly the way you’d think “Gypsy soul” would. It’s just that it’s drowned out by Colby’s singing. And it seems like it’s drowned out by design. Her vocals are mixed so far out front that it feels like that is the intention.
Again, it’s a point that might have been challenged if there were another creative voice in the band. A guitarist would probably want at least one or two moments to shine. Someone would have wanted a memorable moment that wasn’t shouting bizarre spelling embellishments. Perhaps Von Bury was simply exhausted by playing every single instrument on the album to have much input beyond getting it done. Few seasoned musicians can gracefully handle an entire band’s worth of instruments on their own (cue long list of bland, overlong black metal projects). Von Bury is on his first EP.
“Show Me” is a glimmer of hope in this EP, too quickly swept from the mind by more inarticulate bellowing and not-quite-assertive-enough indie funk. Some feeling creeps into the vocals, which are delivered with something approaching care and concern. The music carries a little more emotional weight than on other tracks. Her voice isn’t pushed overpoweringly to the front. Some semblance of balance was put into the track. A majority of the lyrics are legible. Hopefully, likely with the addition of another band member, or at least a producer, these elements will focus more prominently on the next EP or album.
And I do want there to be another release for Lovesucker. I have a feeling that they’ve fallen prey to the lowered cost of entry that the internet provides and released what should be considered a demo as an EP. This is more a proof of concept than a finished product, but few creative types are known for their quality control. This is doubly true for new acts, still finding their voice and deciding what stays and what goes. There’s plenty of potential here, and I’ll be plenty interested to see what comes next.