Ever since his days in the now-defunct 90 Lb. Wuss, I've been a fan of Jeff Suffering. Most of his projects have been hits, a few of them misses, but no matter which way they fell, they've always been intriguing (besides 90 Lb. Wuss, Suffering was also notably in the great, now-defunct Raft of Dead Monkeys).

Maybe my affection for Suffering's work is rooted in the fact that the guy is a little crazy and I'm a big fan of crazy. Which isn't to say that I'm a fan of the clinically insane--no, I mean crazy as in ballsy. Suffering's nuts enough to cut himself onstage during an intense 90 Lb. Wuss show. He's loopy enough to thrash his body and guitar around with little concern for either safety or the size of his audience while a mere 15 people watch a Raft of Dead Monkeys performance at Graceland. His actions that night weren't dramatic attempts to put on a good show for the few who bothered to show up, by the way, it just seemed more like he had no choice but to unleash every last one of his demons onstage--because, in case you weren't paying attention, he's crazy like that.

So of course I took interest when Suffering started up a new project, Suffering and the Hideous Thieves, in 2000. Suffering is the ringmaster, while the cast of "Hideous Thieves" is ever changing (but generally includes a few regulars like Seth Warren, Joel Brown, and Joel Cuplin). Though gone are the days of self-mutilation (thank goodness) and the abrasive noise that was 90 Lb. Wuss, Suffering and the Hideous Thieves are adventurous in their own right. The debut full-length, Real Panic Formed, was depressing, but it was good--darkly melodic tones set the stage for Suffering's sad lyrics. I wasn't as big a fan of the spilt EP that followed, but that didn't stop me from anxiously waiting for the release of their second full-length, Rats in Heaven (which was finally released this month on Lujo Records).

In the works since late 2002, Rats in Heaven starts with "There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood," a waltz with a drunken swagger and a choir of off-key boys singing, "And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains." From there, the record continues to take unconventional turns, blending genres (jazz, punk, rock) while maintaining the string-heavy, moody sound that's become the group's trademark.

A variety of different instrumental textures weave in and out of the record (drums, guitar, violin, piano, accordion, flute, trombone... I think there's even a saw), coming together to create various moments that sound beautiful, eerie, sexy, haunting, gentle, and of course, crazy.

To celebrate the new record, the Vera Project hosts a Suffering and the Hideous Thieves CD release party on Saturday, April 24, with the Holy Ghost Revival and lablemates In Praise of Folly and Hidari Mae (both also just released records on Lujo). The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Show up and get a good dose of some of the best kind of crazy Seattle has to offer.

megan@thestranger.com

Need more? You can hear my personal picks for the week on 107.7 The End every Monday and Friday at 8:30 a.m. during DJ No Name's The Morning Alternative.

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