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THE SZUTERS- American Pop from the Last Band Standing Four lads from the Midwest making a splash in America is not unusual in the annals of rock history. From Cheap Trick to Redd Kross, the Midwest has been bringing its’ brand of pop-rock to ravenous audiences hungry for its catchy and heavy hooks for more than 30 years. However, with the success of young grunge and alternative bands from cities like Seattle, North Carolina, Chicago and Athens, alternative rock has taken a solidly trendy slant leaving the old-school pop-rock movement baffled by the lack of enthusiasm for their music in popular culture today. Well, the times they are a changin’. Don’t expect another flashy band with trendy hair and little substance, a closer listen to American modern-rock and album-oriented rock stations shows that the U.S. is currently being pleasantly surprised by four lads from Ohio. The band is The Szuters. The album is Last Band Standing. Precise Rick Nielsen-esq guitar shards guided by moving bass lines and tight rhythmic drumming, Last Band Standing is cleanly produced leaving room for lead singer Mike Szuter’s scruffy vocals to breathe. The result is a compelling album capturing the live performance energy of Szuter and crew with six grinding, emotion-filled tracks. Formed nearly two years ago by singer-songwriter-guitarist Mike Szuter along with brother-singer-guitarist C.J. Szuter, bassist Craig Martini, and drummer John Fedevich, The Szuters signed with indie Decompression Records in late 1997. After witnessing a string of live dates at such famous venues as The Cleveland Agora, Peabody’s Down Under, The Odeon, and Ludlow’s, the label felt that The Szuters would find an enthusiastic audience out west. Armed with their first self-titled release, The Szuters, the label moved the group to sunny Las Vegas. “On the East Coast , no one really knew who we were,” explains Szuter. “People came to our shows, but we weren’t exactly gracing the pages of SPIN and Rolling Stone every month.” “Steve, the owner of Decompression, saw the band, shared the same vision we had, and let us make a record the way we wanted to make it,” continues Mike, “the result is Last Band Standing.” With the Spring release of the first single “Cigarette,” to U.S. college and modern-rock radio stations, The Szuters have been lighting up request lines coast-to-coast. “I was working in a record store in Ohio,” says drummer Fedevich, “when we heard we were getting requests on the radio all over the place. We were completely taken by surprise.” Due to the strong support being developed on the West Coast, The Szuters jumped a plane and headed to L.A. to perform their debut show at the Troubadour. “I was nervous, the club was packed with all these people who liked our band,” says C.J., “and we wanted everything to go perfect but it just didn’t. The sound system went out four times during the show.” “The amazing thing was that everyone stayed while the club fixed the system,” continues Szuter, “and the show turned out great after all.” “The next day I had to fly back to Las Vegas to get back to work,” adds Martini, “one day I’m performing in L.A. and the next day I am back at work in the music store. I guess that’s what they mean by `paying your dues’.” With the success of “Cigarette”, The Szuters won’t be worrying about day jobs much longer. Produced by veteran studio producer Bill Korecky, Last Band Standing captures the raw vitality and energy associated with American “teen-angst” alterna-rock, while staying true to the band’s pop-rock roots. The combination is explosive,creating a feel on record that is true to the band’s live energy. Szuter, who wrote all twelve cuts, often conveys a number of different ideas lyrically in the same song. Behind a cryptic veil of ambiguity, his subjects are indeed personal and revealing. “Our songs take on a different meaning on different days. Listeners can glean their own meaning,” he explains. “Being real is what’s most important. I’m definitely no storyteller.” Employing penetrating hooks and energetic licks, Last Band Standing grabs the listener by the ears and refuses to let go. “Farther Falling Star,” the relentlessly catchy opener that sarcastically declares general disenchantment and was recorded in just one take, jump starts the album with Szuter’s urgent vocal “I’m not smart enough to quit...Sure I’ll never be missed.” Szuter approaches several topics throughout Last Band Standing with songs like “EX-OK“, Different Today”, and “Hey Loser” all guaranteed to hit a nerve. Spotlighting Szuter’s talent’s in its pristine production, “Luna” is a track with haunting keyboards and a chilling vocal line chronicling the art of losing oneself after a relationship gone bad. In an age where music and youth culture are too often co-opted by the establishment, packaged and spit out to the public as the next big thing, The Szuters provide a breath of fresh air, musical depth and integrity with an unusual lack of ego. “It’s the music that’s important,” says Szuter. And Last Band Standing is the first listen at what promises to be an important band. A band called The Szuters.
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