Providence Journal, Providence, RI - 7/8/04
By Richard Massimo
In March 2003, Suran Song, of the group Suran Song in Stag, went to the New York protests against the run-up to war in Iraq. She didn't know it at the time, but the rallies would indirectly lead to the group's latest record. "There were masses and masses of people," Song remembers. "I had gone to rallies in the '80s, also, and there were way more people at these [recent] demonstrations."
Song and bassist William Weis were frustrated by the lack of media coverage of the rallies. "It just seemed as though they were completely ignored... We decided to let our frustration out about that... "I started to analyze, when I was watching TV, the mechanisms that are used to keep things on an even keel."
The result is Kitty Igloo & the Plastic Stereo. According to Song, it's the group's most tuneful release to date. "We've always tried to make CDs that weren't just soundtracks, where each song could stand alone," Song says, "but I think this time we were more critical in terms of what we could cut.... It's our fourth record, so we wanted to make something that was more challenging and more concise."
Formed in 1996, the core of Suran Song in Stag is singer Song and bassist Weis, who runs his bass through a battery of effects to produce a variety of sounds. Their records have drummers (Doug McEachern on Kitty Igloo), but for touring, they transferred the drum tracks to a CD and perform along with them. Musically, Weis' tweaked-out bass and Song's frosty voice combine with frenetic tempos and fractured song structures to evoke '80s New Wave with more of a rock crunch.
Lyrically, the work is the story of Kitty Igloo taking arms against monopolization and conformity, "about dealing with the repercussions of it, or trying to be the antidote to it.... We wanted to make something that had a fairy-tale, or unreal, quality to it that would talk about what you keep hearing about on the news."
"Polybucket Radio" describes the solution to media monopolization: "Enlist all sounds the radius your block bounds/ It all comes together listening to each neighbor."
"Do You Sing?" is a challenge to artists, particularly song writers: "Do you sing like Britney Spears?/ Or do you sing like there's something wrong?/... Do you sing like Joe Strummer?/ Or do you sing like there's nothing wrong?"
On "T.V. Screams," Song sings, "If I'm being trained in just what to want/ The serfdom to sit still for it to be seen."
Onstage visuals "flesh out the flow" of the songs to help build the story of Kitty Igloo's battle against The Plastic Stereo. Projected visuals for the group's performance, Song says, include pictures from The Wizard of Oz taken directly from a TV screen onto slides, then hand-colored. Song says of The Wizard of Oz, "a metaphor for what government is, and capitalism is, it's all in there. So we wanted to use that as a way to bring fun, but also a pointedness, to what we're doing."
Alternating with the Wizard of Oz shots are pictures of friends and friends' children cavorting in "Papa Bush and Baby Bush masks," Song says.
The band has also become part of the nonprofit group Music for America, and literature on current issues and voting-registration cards will be available at its merchandise table. "It's a small way for us to bring some positivity," Song says.
Suran Song in Stag's music and performance has always had a bit of the political, Song says, but the band was trying to be more explicit this time around. "I think [previously] we were maybe even a little afraid to be clear about it, because we didn't want to scare people. But right now, it's time to be clear."