Album Review: Sonny & The Sunsets – “Tomorrow Is Alright” – (Fat Possum)

Album Reviews, Features, Music — By on October 29, 2010 8:39 pm

If Lou Reed had lived in California, worked in a surf shop and smoked weed instead of bopping his crazy ass around NYC shooting heroin, he would have formed Sonny & The Sunsets instead of Velvet Underground. Honestly, we’re glad this did not occur, but you get the idea.

Sonny Smith, the frontman of this eponymous group, mixes his own curious brand of story songs and lo-fi surf-rock with an affirmative nod to spaced-out EC comics and ’50s creature-feature space-monster fare with an easygoing California vibe. It’s completely relaxed, fun and utterly enjoyable.

Choc-a-bloc with laidback guitars and handclaps rife with the glare of a simultaneously burning California and otherworldy sun, the opening “Too Young To Burn” sets the yeah-whatever tone that becomes quite infectious. Tomorrow Is Alright comes across as an Earthling/Alien love letter to doo-wop rock and roll. Case in point: “Planet of Women” which tells of an (idyllic?) world run by women — or “Fags in drag”? (Check out the hilarious video after the review):

“The two-headed lady said I couldn’t land my ship. I said it would only take a minute.”
“Well,” ‘she said,’ “What’s in it?”
“Aww I don’t know, just some weird shit.”
“OK.”
“Laaa la la la laaa la…”

You can’t help but fall in love with these songs, so lovingly simple as they are — as in “Stranded”: “So I leave you this simple song, I hope it don’t keep you too long” — yet so utterly adorable that they remain in your head for days (daze?) afterwards. There’s the tongue-in-cheek “Bad Vibes and Evil Thoughts” very reminiscent of early Jefferson Airplane, but without the self-important egotism.

“Chapters” is pure Monotones “The Book of Love” playfulness, including whistles and handjive handclaps, while “Love Among Social Animals” could be a sequel to the spacey “Planet of Women” but with a bit more drive, some ghostly Buddy-Hollyesque bells and a heftier bassline.

“Greetings, young Earthlings.”
“Who, me?”
“You have been chosen to join the people of the fourth sun.”
“Really?”
“To spread love throughout the universe.”
“No way.”

It’s Abbott & Costello Meet The Busty Women of Venus, but it’s all in good fun and entirely enjoyable. Not only that, they save the best for last. “Lovin’ On An Older Gal” begins with an ultra-relaxed call-and-response between Sonny and The Sunsets (especially Kelley Stoltz), and includes a very jamming (dare we say ‘otherworldly’?) guitar jam. You’ll find yourself humming this in your sleep.

Short of venturing to a planet where tomorrow is alright, just pop this CD in and enjoy the trip. We love you, Sonny, from your white Bucks right up to your white RayBans.

Recorded in “various apartments” in San Francisco’s Mission District from 2007 – 2008, this one’s a keeper.

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