The Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda Files: The Pulsars’ “Suffocation” Gets Cut Short

Nov 20th, 2006 // 6 Comments

pulsars.gifTime for another installment of the Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda Files, where we blow the dust off of a forgotten favorite and give its lack of chart success a once-over.

Artist: The Pulsars
Song: “Suffocation,” 1997
What happened: The Pulsars, made up of brothers Dave and Harry Trumfio, released a few EPs in the early ’90s before getting signed to Herb Alpert’s Almo Records. The fizzy Pulsars was their debut full-length, and it contained both a tribute song to the Silicon Teens and a few trumpet licks from Alpert himself. But their long-rumored second album was never released; Dave Trumfio still runs Kingsize Soundlabs, which moved from Chicago to Los Angeles a few years ago.
Why it should have been a hit: With its handclaps, “ooh-ahh” backing vocals, and longing lyrics, “Suffocation” should have been catnip for lovelorn music lovers, or at least for the Weezer fans who the Pulsars played to in ’97. But the Pulsars got lost in the late ’90s’ modern-rock shuffle, resulting in their New Wave ways being treasured by only a handful of synth-pop diehards.

The Pulsars – Suffocation [MP3, link expired]
BONUS TRACK: The Pulsars – Tunnel Song [MP3, link expired]
the pulsars [MySpace]


  1. Slappy McJackass

    I love this record. Had no idea that Alpert played on it. There’s like EIGHT songs on this record that could have beeen singles. Catchy as hell.

  2. Mike C.

    I’m with Slappy. An amazing album that has aged quite well. “Tales From Tomorrow” is some of the best fake New Order ever recorded.

  3. Chris Molanphy

    I reviewed this record for CMJ back in ’97. Loved it. Here’s the original review:

    PULSARS Almo Sounds

    “Technology will never die,” sings David Trumfio, who does everything in Chicago’s Pulsars but play the drums – that’s his brother Harry’s job. With a strong buzz backing last year’s Submission to the Master EP (on which their label boss, Herb Alpert, played trumpet) and a lovingly nerdy sense of style, Pulsars may well sneak onto the charts whether or not electronica takes over the world. Lumping Pulsars in with Moby et al. is like saying Neil Diamond was a hippie because he hit in the ’60s and had long hair; the Trumfios are if anything a nostalgia act, mining the formative sounds of the ’80s in a way that’s bound to comfort their peers. Calculated? You bet: try “Machine Talk,” “Silicon Teens” (which celebrates the titular band and Anglophilia), and “My Pet Robot”; if they’d thrown in a couple of Star Wars references, this project would have veered awfully close to the twee Nerf Herder school. But just one listen to Pulsars reveals the Trumfios’ knack for, not just pop songs, but technopop songs: “Tunnel Song” has a soaring synth melody and a dashboard-pounding beat, and “Suffocation” takes a view of love a shade brighter than Martin Gore’s. Self-referential lyrics about technology won’t work forever, but with hooks this good, Pulsars may get by on their plugged-in songs alone.

    Recommended If You Like: Devo, Imperial Teen, early New Order/Depeche Mode.

  4. brasstax

    I think I bought it based on that review!

    That, and the fact I found a promo copy of it lying around with a $2 pricetag.

  5. JohnnyO

    I loved this album and still do. Suffocation was staple of every mix tape I ever made a girl in the late 90′s. Tunnel Song, Submission to the Master, Owed to the Devil, Technology… these were some damn catchy songs. Given the prevalence of New Wave sounds in today’s music — even top 40 rockers like the Killers — I wonder if a reformed Pulsars couldn’t achieve greater success.

    Perhaps part of what killed them was the disconnect between their polished, radio-ready songs and their intentionally weird style: they had an Abbot-and-Costello science geek thing going, a “robot” band member called T-9000, and they opened for Man or Astroman. Or maybe the 90′s were too close to the 80′s for New Wave to seem cool. Whatever the case, I’d love to hear more from the Trumfio brothers.

  6. Anonymous

    Does anyone know if the guys have done any recording since the Pulsars? I really loved that band and hate to think of that kind of talent just stopping. I would appreciate any info anyone has on them. Their album really is one of my all-time favorites. It doesn’t age. They were ahead of their time and seemed to suffer from it. I still believe in the Trumfio brothers!!

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