“I had a dream that we were doing hard drugs in a street alley” is a hell of a line to kick off a song, and seems emblematic of your typical rock and roll band. But SUSTO are far from the typical. The Charleston five-piece covers vast sonic ground on their new album & I’m Fine Today, swaying between country-tinged rock (“Cosmic Cowboy”), contemplative pop ballads (“Mountain Top”), and any number of other genres that exist somewhere within the expansive fabric of Southern music. But lead single “Hard Drugs” is perhaps most typical of their nakedly honest, narrative approach to songwriting, covering themes of heartbreak and loneliness with an added dose of creative flair.
“& I’m Fine Today is our most earnest effort to create unique emotional soundscapes…
…while speaking candidly and openly about the realities of existence,” the band tells Consequence of Sound. “We are a group of people, touring musicians, who feel privileged to do what we do and we have given all of our energy to create an album that captures both the pain and beauty of being human.”
It can seem like a pretty hopeless world out there sometimes, but this is the kind of music that just hits in the right way on those long, dark nights of the soul. Hell, it might even make you laugh when you’re done moppin’ up those tears.
…The single “Hard Drugs” is a Gram Parsons flavored number that is as painfully self-conscious as it is tongue-in-cheek wry. A song about the negative side of drugs hasn’t been done this well since “Sister Morphine.” “I’m just glad that I found you, sorry that I couldn’t keep you around” is a beautifully bittersweet line.
“Far Out Feeling” features soulful strings and backing vocals that harken to Philadelphia circa 1974, like an outtake from Young Americans. “Gay in the South” eschews subtlety for a hard-hitting take on a world that still can’t readily accept differences. “Tell the truth unless you think you should lie,” is a rather straightforward, non-judgmental, albeit resigned piece of advice for those struggling with self-identity issues. Hard to believe in today’s atmosphere that my fellow Yanks could’ve been so naïve as to think that the battle for civil rights was over, but we’re nothing if not a nation content with simple answers to complex problems.
“Mystery Man” has a feel like the Golden Age of laid-back SoCal music that would flourish into the adult contemporary genre. That’s not meant as an insult. Despite the stereotyped image of cheesy, overproduced, oft-misogynistic love songs by acts like The Eagles or post-Peter-Green era Fleetwood Mac, there were also a lot of really good songs made under that nauseating umbrella term.
On the uptempo “Waves,” Osbornes sings about “smoking weed with God,” a line that points at both the spiritual and hippie vibe that runs throughout this navel-gazing effort. & I’m Fine Today is not only a wink-wink cynical line but also a spot-on summary of the mood of this album.