By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
“We all rose to the challenge,” Terry Draper says about “Calling Occupants (Of Interplanetary Craft),” Klaatu’s momentous signature song that opened the band’s debut album, 3:47 E.S.T., but he might as well have been referring to Sir Army Suit, the Canadian trio’s triumphant third album, released in August 1978 and now celebrating its 40th anniversary.
The challenge Terry, John Woloschuk and Dee Long were faced with, as they gathered to work on Sir Army Suit–really no challenge at all–was to write and record relatively short radio-friendly songs that would increase Klaatu’s marketplace footprint. And with wonderful nuggets such as “Juicy Luicy,” a catchy disco parody; “Tokeymor Field,” a hummable soft-pop romantic romp inspired by the music of the Young Rascals; and “Older,” a rocker about making time count before it’s gone, success should have been a fait accompli. And it was, for fans who held 3:47 E.S.T. and Hope, Klaatu’s previous two albums, dear.
John, Dee and Terry’s mandate was always to write and record songs that were different from each other, and for Sir Army Suit, they came up with their most diverse set yet. Songs about long getaways (“Everybody Took a Holiday”), the gift you didn’t know you needed (“Perpetual Motion Machine”), falling in love from a berth on the high seas (“Dear Christine”), and leading a humdrum existence (“A Routine Day”) were brought to life with fanciful, creative arrangements. Working with producer Terry Brown, the band’s George Martin, Klaatu delivered exactly what was called for– an album stocked full of unique treasures that is as enjoyable today as it was 40 years ago.
One of Sir Army Suit’s most engaging slices of songcraft is the cinematic number that opens the album. John’s majestic “A Routine Day,” about a man living possibly the most humdrum existence imaginable, offers up exquisite and complex chord progressions, one of the loveliest, most seductive melodies in Klaatu’s catalog, and a surprising Twilight Zone-esque ending, in which the hapless narrator waits on the pier, as one does, for Charon, the ferryman of Hades.
Then, there are the tremendous songs written by Dee Long, charming, melodic wonders all: the aforementioned “Everybody Took a Holiday” and “Perpetual Motion Machine,” and “Older,” “Mr. Manson,” and “Cherie” (Dee also cowrote the wild sci-fi closer, “Silly Boys,” with John). “Cherie” may well be the loveliest of all of Dee’s creatures on this album:
Of course, a band is more than just one member’s vision; Sir Army Suit wouldn’t be the creative triumph it is without John Woloschuk, Dee Long and Terry Draper working together to fuse their ideas into a successful whole. And, it cannot be said often enough that the trio, working together with Terry Brown, were collectively a tremendous close-knit, creative force.
All of this sterling work came wrapped inside Hugh Syme’s beautiful, imaginative cover art that finally provided visual proof that the members of Klaatu had never been Beatles, even if the band members and fellow travelers depicted didn’t come with names attached. That would have to wait until Klaatu’s next album, Endangered Species.
Klaatu produced five albums in their relatively brief lifetime; all of them offer slices of hope and a little courage, but Sir Army Suit is perhaps the most courageous of all.
Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.