It is quite serendipitous that Milwaukee/Madison musician John Mayer has the name John Mayer. In his band Surgeons in Heat he has a strong ability to write catchy and smooth pop songs (check out “Better On Your Own” from Surgeons in Heat for a prime example). Mayer also lends his talents on bass to Milwaukee’s Jaill and Surgeons in Heat’s new album, Disaster, features contributions from that band’s front man Vincent Kircher. Surgeons in Heat’s drummer, Shawn Pierce, also plays in Pioneer (with Kenny Monroe who was in Surgeons in Heat previously) and Buildings on Buildings.
The album immediately demonstrates that the band has changed course with the aggressive driving backbone and humming scattered synths of “You Never Know” and “Disaster. The edginess of the songs definitely suggests the influence of Vincent Kircher. They have a captivating experimental punk quality and uniqueness as well as an overall impressive musical display not present in past Surgeons in Heat work. “You Never Know” particularly stands out with its near virtuosic electronics; it is not difficult to understand why it is the lead single.
“Going Through the Motions” is more consistent with the band’s gentle sound on the last album but adds in a vintage synth beat. On “Can’t Hear a Thing” Mayer sings “And I have been waiting for a sound/can’t hear a thing/ you know I wondered where you went or where you been.” A catchy buzzing melody plays between the verses. “Needs” is reminiscent of the energy of “I Wanna Get Up” but with a little more soul. Mayer sings, “You got everything you need/you don’t need me at all/ and she’s talking to me/ because she’s feeling oh so small.” “Baby You’re Mine” features a memorable lead riff. “Another Time” plays like a ballad with a mellow guitar intertwined with the vocals. Lyrically, most of these songs are romantic posturings. “Turn it Down” is a instrumental track that ends the album with a dark groove, reverbed guitar and dreamy synths. This song combined with “Can’t Hear a Thing” serve as somewhat of a continuation of the sound on “You Never Know” and “Disaster” but is much more relaxed.
It is engaging to hear a pop band like Surgeons in Heat trying to change up their sound. It would have been even more interesting if they had done a whole album that sounded like “You Never Know” and “Disaster” instead of offering songs that add electronics to their style as well as are consistent with the approach of previous efforts. It would be extremely exciting if the band gave this a try because Mayer’s pop sensibilities and Kircher’s avant-garde style combined greatly in the formerly mentioned songs. All in all, give this album a listen if you are curious as to what a pop band sounds like that is experimenting with new sounds and methods.