Those who remember the mid-1980s might recall the hair band glut. In the midst of all the hugely popular bands was a thoughtful-sounding rock band from Niagra Falls. Canadian rockers Honeymoon Suite never seemed to have gotten the attention they deserved. The good news is, the band is still around.
Honeymoon Suite, a retrospective
Honeymoon Suite formed in 1981, just as hard rock and 1970s glam rock were melding to make glam metal. According to legend, or rumor, the group’s name is making fun of Niagra Falls’ reputation as one of the world’s most popular honeymoon destinations.
Honeymoon Suite managed to be a successful hard rock band with a synthesizer, but with the hair and fashion sense of a slightly less glamorous type of band. But a listen to the band’s lyrics reveals that Honeymoon Suite is more substance than style.
Clear lyrics that created an effective narrative marks the typical Honeymoon Suite song. In addition, the soundscape is formed by one of the more successful guitar and keyboard combinations created in the last 30 years. All of the instrumentation and vocal qualities are underscored by a heavy drum beat.
After the 1980s were over, audiences in some smaller US markets never heard from Honeymoon Suite again. Even when radio station personalities and others discuss “Canadian rockers” the usual groups, Rush, Triumph, Head East, April Wine, Loverboy and even Aldo Nova, are mentioned. Honeymoon Suite is often left to languish in audiences’ memories.
But why Honeymoon Suite is so memorable is found in a retrospective of the band’s best-known songs.
“New Girl Now”
The song opens with a growling, chunky guitar riff. The soundscape opens a bit and the guitar becomes a bit less in-your-face. The simple time signature is played up by the drums unadorned thumping. Just in the distance, a keyboard whispers a nuanced line that keeps the song different from a bunch of other rock songs.
By the time the second chorus comes around, the keyboard sound is broken into a series of high register piano notes that sound as if they are leftover from a boogie-woogie record. When the guitars start to get heavy again for the chorus, the keyboard resumes its modern-sounding motif.
The guitar solo is worked toward by a guitar showcase of mid-range notes playing a different riff. Then, the high pitched solo erupts.
The song is about the narrator having a new girlfriend and wanting the old one to go away and stop calling. The unusual phrasing gets listeners’ attention. From the opening verse: “…I’m in the past tense/ I’m hardly aware.” And later, the bridge: “I don’t care if you’re sitting at home/somebody’s broken into me…I got a new girl now.”
Sometimes mainstream rock music depends too heavily on phrases that audiences have heard hundreds of times before. While there is something to be said for informality, Honeymoon Suite manages to capture a classic story without burdening listeners with the same old construction of phrases.
“New Girl Now” ends in an exclamation of keyboards. The instrumentation shimmers as the vocal declares “Just like you!” as the song ends. It doesn’t like a triumph. It sounds more like frustration. But that portion of the song taken with the earlier portion creates humor in an easy-to-understand situation.
“Feel It Again”
Here, the hard rock group sounds more like pop with a rock ‘n’ roll edge. The lyrics, however, seem to have come right out of an alternative rock rulebook, if such a thing existed.
On “Feel It Again,” the bassline takes over the soundscape as the song moves toward the chorus. There is angst in the guitar parts while the verses are sung. There is an additional chorus or bridge before the guitar solo in which the key changes and the lead vocals are higher and the instrumentation is brighter overall.
Probably the most carefully drawn lyrics in the whole song are found in the second verse. “Another scratched or scribbled note/to handsome men in overcoat/deception right in front of me/a jealous fantasy, whoa…” the word choice and subsequently the rhyme is unexpected.
The simple guitar and drums plus bass setup deceive listeners into thinking this is just another pop/rock song, but the lyrics tell another story. The art of falling for someone after emotional upheaval is depicted clearly in “Feel It Again.”
Honeymoon Suite in the 21st century
Despite how things appeared, the band had not gone away. A bit of research reveals that the band has been active since its inception. This is proving to be the case with a number of bands that some people would be tempted to forget about. The latest album I could find by Honeymoon Suite was 2016’s “Hands Up.” It was the follow-up to 2008’s “Clifton Hill,” and 2002’s “Lemon Tongue.”
“Hey Deanna” from “Hands Up” is a heartfelt tune whose earnestness has a nuanced ’90s rock feel.
There seems to have been some sort of disservice done to Honeymoon Suite that a consistent and varied catalog received so little attention. Hopefully, as the band continues to record and perhaps tour, audiences will be re-acquainted with the Canadian band that not everyone forgot.