For the past five years or so, Surgeons In Heat have had the distinction of being one of Milwaukee’s best bands and one of its most elusive. Following the release of two EPs in 2011 and 2012—both of which were later combined to form a self-titled full-length—the group’s once-busy show schedule slowed to a crawl. Multiple lineup changes and relocations ensued, with singer-songwriter Johnathon Mayer counting himself as the only consistent member. Now, three years after falling silent, Surgeons In Heat are set to make a confident return with a long-awaited (and long-delayed) new album, Disaster.
The good news: Surgeons’ laid-back, un-ironic neo-soul vibe remains intact. Opener “May 28” is a bleary-eyed head-nodder featuring Mayer’s familiar lilting croon. “She’s Used To It” makes a play for the dance floor with a funky guitar hook and some judicious “ooh-la-la”s. The decidedly up-tempo “Needs” is all get-up-and-jump organ and silky-smooth harmonies. Fans of the band’s previous material will feel instantly at ease. Surgeons In Heat haven’t lost a step, even if their current lineup is split between Milwaukee and Madison.
More good news: Jaill frontman Vincent Kircher serves as Disaster’s producer, and lends the proceedings a slightly skewed pop sensibility. (Mayer is also a member of the similarly lineup-happy Jaill.) Kircher’s influence is felt throughout, most obviously in the glitchy intro of single “You Never Know,” the broken surf-rock guitar solo that caps the title track, and the Strokes-esque drum accompaniment that marks the deceptively titled “Going Through The Motions.” The effortlessly lovely and languid “Another Time” finds the styles of Kircher and Mayer meeting halfway, with a Jaill-indebted slide guitar lounging around the margins of a textbook Surgeons come-down.
Not that Disaster is a downer. It’s a surprisingly light, breezy, easy-to-digest record (a handful of tracks barely reach the two-minute mark, often fading out unexpectedly), and one that’s perfect for beer-buzzed summer afternoons and the long nights that follow. Listen to it now, only at Milwaukee Record.
Top Five Records will release Surgeons In Heat’s Disaster Tuesday, April 14 (digital) and Tuesday, April 28 (vinyl). The band will play an album release show Friday, May 1 at Linneman’s. The Fatty Acids, Canopies, and Sat. Nite Duets will open. $10 gets you in the door and a vinyl copy of the album.