‘Speaking of Biscuits’ May Please Purists

by Nadia Smith
Columnist

What happens when a few Transylvania English majors who like They Might Be Giants and Ben Folds graduate and get together to form a band? To hear how one such combination turned out you can check out the group Suffering Fools and their first album “Speaking of Biscuits.”

The group’s members have carefully kept their anonymity, but according to its website the group is composed of three members scattered across different states: Fool 1, the drummer, producer and engineer; Fool 2, the keyboardist and all-around musician; and Fool 3, the guitar player and vocalist.

“We write, perform, record and produce all our own material,” Fool 3 said. “In addition to using the typical assortment of rock instruments, I play some clarinet here and there and Fool 2 adds a trio of bassoons to ‘No Rust on Her Chain.’ ”

Like many first albums “Speaking of Biscuits” includes songs recorded over several years that reflect a variety of styles. The group sometimes describes its style as “like the 60s but with different drugs.”

“Some of the material on ‘Speaking of Biscuits’ originated during our time at Transy,” said Fool 3. “For example, parts of ‘White Whine ’89’ were composed in Davis Hall and 331 N. Broadway.”

That particular song is a lot of fun, as any college student can appreciate lyrics like “Two yuppies talk to themselves / Hey mister marketing plans … / You can be the best at middle management / If you can see your way / To freedom from academic banishment.” And who doesn’t love a song with a little whistling?

Other notable tracks include “Pleasure and Pain,” your typical sad but enjoyable indie rock unrequited love ballad, and “Infant Fever,” which has a kind of hip-hop feel to it.

“Our production techniques are often what you might call atavistic,” Fool 3 said. “‘Speaking of Biscuits’ was made entirely on a four-track cassette recorder and the drums were single-miked. We like to think this forces us into a 60s-style creative mode and results in a classic-rock feel, … but we leave that to the judgment of the listener.”

For this listener, though I admire the group’s purism, I didn’t appreciate its results. Unfortunately, the sound quality is what I liked least about this album. I liked its 1960s sounds but found my 21st-century ear searching desperately for some distinctly clear sound that I wasn’t able to find in most of the tracks.

Overall Suffering Fools has most necessary elements for a successful act but leaves something to be desired when it comes to vocals. Rock bands and artists throughout the ages have sometimes suffered from a lack of vocal talent (Can Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen or Mick Jagger really sing?), but they have usually solved the problem through amazing lyrics, killer music, unique expression and intensity, talk-singing, processing or, my least favorite, lots of screaming.

The group did employ some of these solutions. For example, in “Nudderbudder” one of the members talks rhythmically over the entire track which allows you to more fully enjoy the background music, and “What’s the Point” features some more distinctive, easier-to-listen-to vocals from the lead singer.

I regret to say that I had to “suffer” through several tracks including “She Go and Demand” where the song alternated between the chorus of “You demand / He demand / She demand / We demand” and “You da man / He da man / She da man / We da man,” phrases which might sound very rhythmic when reading aloud but are not nearly as enjoyable to listen to on that track.

“Gonna Dance,” which involved mostly talk-screaming and random horn noises, also did not inspire me to get up and move anything but my hands over my ears.
That said, “Speaking of Biscuits” does not seem to be the kind of album that was meant to be taken completely seriously and some tracks could just be appreciated for their musical chaos. I enjoyed the track “Inner Mission” mostly for its subtle references to science fiction including a strange quote from Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy referring to Spock’s missing brain.

You can’t help but applaud the group’s do-it-yourself spirit, and indie rockers and garage band enthusiasts will surely find something to enjoy on this album.

The group is currently working on its second album, which it hopes to release this year. For the latest news and to listen to songs from “Speaking of Biscuits,” go to http://sufferingfools.com. You can also look for the music video to “First Monkey Laugh” on YouTube.

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One Response to ‘Speaking of Biscuits’ May Please Purists

  1. Thanks for your review! Just for the record, “Gonna Dance” is a parody of bad dance music in general, so you had the right reaction. Coincidentally enough, the vocal “performance” on that track was directly inspired by Mick Jagger.

    Thanks in advance to any Transy folk who decide to give Speaking of Biscuits a listen. Our second album will be very different in some ways, hopefully all to the good. (We already like it better and it’s not even finished.)

    Suffering Fools

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