Friday, March 14, 2008

Suicide Kings!

I'm stoked to be heading up to Phoenix on Friday to see the Suicide Kings for the first time. The Suicide Kings are led by Valley music legend (perhaps the Al Perry for the folks north of the Gila?) Bruce Connole, whose long string of bands and projects date back to at least the early 1980s.

Hell, Connole was being touted as a long-timer a decade ago, when he made a turn from honky-tonk to bluegrass. Not that he's purely country by any means -- Connole's bands along the way have been everything from new wave to full on metal.

It was Connole's Jetzons who were looking for an opener on their four-sets-a-night, four-nights-a-week gig when Gin Blossoms legend Doug Hopkins first stumbled into a regular gig.

Not that I was remotely around for any of that, but it's a fascinating rock 'n' roll history that demonstrates more than anything how versatile the Arizona music scene has been dating to the early days of punk rock and how talent and commitment can lead to as many different gigs as a musician can think up.

I first came to Connole's music through The Revenants, as pure a honky-tonk band as I've ever heard, no matter what the era. Mr. Chair first introduced me to the Artists & Whores album, with the promise that if I liked Johnny Cash, I'd dig what these Tempe dudes had to offer. And hey, he was right, though I'd throw in that anybody who digs Hank Williams would dig The Revenants as well.

Artists & Whores is pure honky-tonk, ornery as hell. It aint', it's country - and also clever as hell. The lyrics are at once a mastery of the genre's themes of heartache and drinking early graves and a winking spin on those same themes. "That Girl's Insane" is my favorite off that record:
"She looks good, just like Hollywood, was a fire in her eye
Makes an entrance like a lady should,
Shoulders back, head up high
Ooh it makes me sad like the pouring rain
Ooh she looks so fine, but you know that girls' insane"
After The Revanants went on permanent hiatus, Connole moved on to The Busted Hearts, who were the one and only band I saw perform at the legendary and now demolished Mill Ave. Long Wongs. The Busted Hearts weren't quite pure bluegrass - there was a spirit of country songmanship that ran through what they did and downplayed the instrumental just a bit. But damn, what a show.

Apparently The Busted Hearts have now gone away and Connole has resurrected the spirit of The Revenants, along with the original band name, The Suicide Kings. I've heard a bit of the demos for their new project and while the honky-tonk remains, there's a roadhouse rock 'n' roll feel that shows up, a rowdier spirit that takes over. Some of the songs are re-recordings of Revenants or Busted Hearts tunes (like "Even Hookers Say Good-Bye" and "Hooker's Lament") that show new life.

Overall it's an incredibly promising set of tunes, a set that is all but certain to surpass what Connole achieved on Artists & Whores and The Busted Hearts single, self-titled record.

I'd hate to even start guessing how Connole has been active and innovative in a backwater (yet still compelling and absolutely unique) music scene for 30 years. But it's the straight truth. And what does that get ya? A gig (not even opening) at Mesa's Hollywood Alley, which can't hold more than a couple hundred (busted-hearted) souls. But I have high expectations and if y'all are in the Valley, go on and check out the show or (no matter where ya are) spend a little time with Connole's music on MySpace.

The Suicide Kings - Whiskey Row
The Revenants - That Girl's Insane
The Busted Hearts - Hooker's Lament (demo)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was for me & still is the coolest cat/cats in town. Coming straight out of "Billy Clone & The Same" it just kept getting better & better. From Talking Heads punk style to Johnny Cash country's been a a hell of a road......and A road that I got lucky enough to travel on too.