SSM Concert Review - Sept. 2, 2006 - Double Door, Chicago, IL
By Sarah L. Myers

The spirit of Detroit spilled out of the Double Door last month as the city's own SSM packed the joint with loyal followers. Fresh off a sold-out West Coast tour with The Black Keys, the trio of singer/keyboardist John Szymanski, drummer Dave Shettler and singer/guitarist Marty Morris (SSM) played a low-fi set as sticky and clouded as the room itself.

PLAYING : "Put Me In - Edit" - SSM

They pulled it off, despite having a broken synthesizer and nearly suffering heat stroke. In true Double Door fashion, the room was deep in cigarette smoke and void of ventilation. But SSM are meant to be enjoyed up close and personal, and by the second number the crowd began to move with the beat, even after standing through two opening bands. Jumping straight into "Exit Strategy", SSM hit nearly every track off their self-titled debut.

"Viking's Daughter" and "2012" translated especially well. On record, "2012" is a sleeper. Moody, futuristic, and dark, it only picks up at the chorus, slamming us over and over with sonic scuzz. Live, it's something else entirely. It was weighted throughout, with enough strobe and vibration to induce an epileptic seizure. The atonal "Viking's Daughter" was just as disorienting with its spiraling breakdown and feedback. The only thing missing was a fog machine and a spaceship. (Incidentally, this is the cover art for the album).

"I think the heaviness of the LP is derived from our performance, not the other way around," Morris said. "On stage we transform into a machine, a unit, and become fearless. I recall one reviewer likened it to the old cartoon, Voltron."

The dizzying keyboards of "Candy Loving", combined with Szymanski's yowl and Morris's fuzzy guitar, provided just one highlight of the night. The lyrics were pure teen pop ("little girls want candy/ little boys want candy loving"), as was the obligatory chorus chant and floor drum, courtesy of Shettler. S and M yell rather than sing, resulting in a give and take their names might suggest. Theirs is one of the most unique pairings of voices in rock revival.

All Detroit garage rock owes something to the Stooges and the MC5 but SSM have infused that influence with Motown, psychadelica, and a little of the British Invasion. A mixture of "Shang-a-Lang", The White Stripes, and "96 Tears", they're SSM - a harmonic union of three distinct parts.

SSM's debut album is out now on Alive Records.


Artwork for SSM by Matt Gordon


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