Sonny & The Sunsets

Sonny & The Sunsets

Sarah Bethe Nelson

Wed, July 22, 2015

8:00 pm

Baby's All Right

Brooklyn, NY

$13.00 - $15.00

Tickets at the Door

This event is 18 and over

Sonny & The Sunsets
Sonny & The Sunsets
The modern age sends love letters on yellowed, empty pages. It’s got telepathic advice gurus in its timeline and
deep sea creatures washing up on its shores. It’s got plugs, buttons, and illusions, and a grocery store whose aisles
correspond to Dante’s infernal circles, plus a nebulous sense of ephemeral weirdness. It’s got Moods Baby Moods and
the existential angst it yields has Sonny Smith in a funk, but he’s turned it into funk.
On previous records, the Sunsets have plundered a wide spectrum of musical appropriation (garage-rock, forgotten
AM radio fodder, Modern Lovers, late-era Clash, Doo-Wop, and the Velvet Underground, to name a few.) Mood
Baby Moods follows suit, and on this outing we find the Sunsets, along with producer Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs,
repurposing early ‘80s funk and new wave with rap beats and collages from both sides of the ocean (be it Niles
Rogers, Jah Wobble, The Gap Band, Orange Juice, Trans-era Neil Young or The Tom Tom Club.) These are songs that
juxtapose the haze of today with a vibrant and colorful explosion of sounds and 180 degree turns.
Sonny’s gift for vivid storytelling is no secret. His last album with the Sunsets, Talent Night at the Ashram, was
peopled by characters he’d created for scripts that never saw the light of day. He greeted 2016 with a solo LP (Sees
All Knows All) that involved no singing at all — a winding tale of one musician’s quest to find himself set to music.
Moods Baby Moods is no less inventive and arguably more musically sophisticated than Smith’s previous records.
“Death Cream Part 2” picks up a comic book tale started on 2009’s Tomorrow Is Alright, tracing that titular tube of
heinous goop back to a grocery store/hell. “Modern Age” transfers from a party to a string quartet, with elements of
dub, while the narrator comes to grips with meaninglessness – ‘modern age/nothing to say.’ “Well but Strangely Hung
Men” bridges a gap between Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud and Richard Brautigan over a driving post disco beat.
The real life cast supporting Moods Baby Moods is fittingly rife with outsider talent. Garbus’ voice can be heard
throughout. Shayde Sartin’s bass, Edmund Xavier’s drum machine beats and Smith’s guitar form the foundations, and
regular Tahlia Harbour continues her back and forth banter with Smith. Cold Beat’s Hannah Lew brings a Kleenex/
Young Marble Giants flavor to the songs. Shannon Shaw and Jibz Cameron drop by for a skit, and Kaznary Mutoh of
Tokyo’s Boys Age lends guitars and garbles the outro of “Modern Age.”
Lyrically, Smith is playing with the grand themes of today. In his search for purpose in the cruel realities of the
modern age, he’s trying to make sense out of chaos and suffering, and to find a way to live and be real. This is not
an easy task in a time of synthetic feelings (“Moods”), computer created confusion (“Modern Age”), climate change
(“Dead Meat on the Beach”), civil rights abuse (“White Cops on Trial”), and the uneasy feeling of numbness in our
chaotic world (“Check Out”).
But in the final moments of Moods Baby Moods, Sonny delivers a line that not only speaks truth to his philosophy
as played out across his career, but to what it means to be human in any era, reg
Sarah Bethe Nelson
Sarah Bethe Nelson
Sarah Bethe Nelson is the constant observer. Having spent the better part of her adult life tending bar at San Francisco's most well-loved watering holes, she has witnessed thousands of late nights fights, early morning rants, blackouts, make-outs, and make-ups. Yet she seems to have an eye cast askance at the streetlights outside. For it's not the drama unfolding inside the bar that keeps her rapt; it's the possibility that one night a light will appear outside, a glowing orb with all the answers that she can levitate into, that will rescue her from love-worn ennui, from the violence of misspent youth. What stands out about the songs on her Burger Records debut Fast-Moving Clouds is this sense of waiting, waiting, hoping.
Ms. Nelson doesn't exude the brassy confidence of a chanteuse; nor does she wear the mask of false naivete favored by some of her "indy" musical contemporaries. Rather, Nelson and her plaintive, unforced voice seem to hang in the balance, and the source of her songs seems a mix of genuine heartbreak and stark resolve. Her music is reflected in that not-extreme dichotomy; in it there is warmth and beauty, as well as a genuine mean streak, softened barely by her well-crafted melodies.
As a long-time member of San Francisco's close-knit rock and roll community, Nelson has obviously inherited her peers' sense of pensive melody. Most striking, though, is the seeming simplicity of the songs; the two-word chorus of "Impossible Love", repeated over and over, not to bore the listener, but to key us in to her sense of educated hopelessness, a "been-there, done-that" kind of boredom, followed by a gorgeous, unexpected chord-change turnaround, which paints a wholly different picture of elevation and release. The songs are simple, but they throw these great surprises at us. Recorded at the home studio of song wizard Kelley Stoltz there is a sense of sonic adventure creeping throughout the record. With a crack engineer and a who's who of great musicians giving life to Ms. Nelson's weary yet inspired observations Fast-Moving Clouds is a beautiful, mysterious journey to heartbreak and back.
-Tim Cohen
Venue Information:
Baby's All Right
146 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY, 11211
http://babysallright.com/