You have to feel a little bit sorry for any band that invests time and energy building up a fan-base, only to be told, on the verge of their big break-through, that they have to start again from scratch. For Montreal quartet Zeroes, in the enviable position of being signed to a reputable label with studio time booked under the guidance of a local production legend, the news that another band with the same name had taken legal action to prevent them using the moniker must have seemed particularly untimely. And so, at the behest of a little-known American punk group, Zeroes became Suuns and carried on, retreating into Breakglass Studios with the Besnard Lakes’ Jace Lasek to record the tracks that would make up their cheekily-titled Secretly Canadian debut, Zeroes QC, a snarling beast of an album that proves these guys were never going to be the type to go down without a fight.
For a first outing, Zeroes QC is an impressively confident record. Combining propulsive prog with angular post-punk and creeping atmospherics, Suuns display a knowledge of space and timing that would shame a lot of bands with three or four albums under their belts, and it’s this awareness of when to hold back and when to let go that gives the record it’s character. Every sound has its place and purpose, from the backfiring robot buzz that opens “Armed For Peace” to the gentle hum that closes “Organ Blues,” and everything in between is placed with the patient precision of a hunter stalking its prey. The motorik drums that propel most of these tracks are so sleek that it’s often difficult to tell the real thing from the additional machine-tooled beats, and throughout the course of the album the merging of synthetic and organic lends proceedings a detached, otherworldly feel.
Unsurprisingly, there are hurdles that the band struggle to clear. There are times when the man/ machine collision feels less than symbiotic; the beats on “Arena” feel like a rather forced (and ultimately unsuccessful) effort to make the song more “dance-floor friendly,” whereas the squelchy electro-kraut stomp of “Sweet Nothing” is spoilt somewhat by an awkward shift to live band for its final third. And whilst there are worse crimes than cribbing Clinic’s ghost train rattle on tracks like “Up Past The Nursery,” singer Ben Shemie’s Ade Blackburn impression pushes the tribute perilously close to parody territory. Ultimately, though, Zeroes QC has far more in its favour than against it; Jace Lasek does an admirable job with the production, channelling a more nocturnal version of his own band’s widescreen grandeur, whilst Suuns themselves evince a knack for memorable melodies without really producing anything in the way of actual hooks. It’s a promising debut, and a defiant middle finger to a certain group of old men and their lawyers. Who wants to be a zero anyway?