LIVE REVIEW: Sonny & The Sunsets, Surf City, Community Radio, Adults @ Goodgod (21/11/13)

DS Featured Imagesonny

Four shades of indie guitar pop music were on display at Goodgod with Adults being at the more obtuse end of the spectrum. The trio knocked out ramshackle, skeletal post punk songs built around restless melodies and rhythmic edge. Their songs gave the impression of being thrown together casually yet beneath the Pavement-esque delivery there lurked some interesting and restless musicality. Once the ears and brain adjusted they were occasionally frustrating and often very good.

Community Radio include members of Youth Group, Songs and The Vines with their sound sitting firmly in the vicinity of the the former two. Their dreamy, softly propulsive songs blended in well with Goodgod’s dimly lit, basement grotto feel and hypnotic spinning mirrorball. The interplay between guitarist Cameron Emerson-Elliott and bassist Patrick Matthews stood out as a highlight with intermeshed rhythms and tangled notes working out some wonderful melodies.

New Zealanders Surf City re-energised the audience with a set that had its fair share of frustrations but showed enough to justify the critical acclaim for their two albums. A bass cabinet upped and died in the first song leaving the band to battle on with the low end coming only from the stage monitors. It seemed to throw them, disrupting their vibe on stage, unnecessarily so as it still sounded great out front. They showed how well they’ve mastered the skill of blending a strong rhythm section with layered, effect-rich guitars and hook-laden vocals. You could hear the ghosts of the last 30 years of New Zealand independent music, still with Surf City’s own stamp applied.

Sonny & The Sunsets played their set in near darkness yet their music was brightest and most unabashed pop music of the night. Sure there was an abundance of dark lyrical themes but the band framed them with such infectious indie, surf and rock n roll pop shapes that they won the audience over from the get go. Goofy songs about murder, love, romance, aliens and girls filled the room via Sonny Smith’s laconic drawl that often brought to mind a jerkier, new wave Lou Reed. The musicality of The Sunsets was a real highlight from Tahlia Harbour’s girl-group backing vocals to the way they allowed so much space in their sound when it was required. This was a set of songs that sounded otherworldly and familiar, simple yet quirky, all at the same time.

by Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

LIVE REVIEW: The Clean @ Factory Theatre, Sydney (09/03/11)

written by Chris Familton

With recent tours from The Bats and The Verlaines, the prominence of 80s NZ bands has never been higher but the act many have been waiting for is of course The Clean – that seminal Velvets/krautrock/psych trio that pretty much kickstarted the NZ scene in the late 70s.

San Francisco’s Sonny & The Sunsets opened proceedings with a fun and artful romp through west coast surf and garage rock. Frontman Sonny Smith has a Jonathan Richman air about him – that kind of aloof cool that suited their jangly and propulsive pop grooves perfectly. Singer/songwriter Kelley Stoltz was also a standout, capturing the mood of their music perfectly behind the kit.

Smudge received a great response from the crowd, probably as a result of the average age of the punters meaning they were around the first time the band were playing their melodic grunge in the 90s. Smudge are always a band that balances a slacker vibe with effortless pop nous and they did just that on classic songs like Hot Potato and Outdoor Type.

The Clean have achieved mythical status in many quarters so this was always going to be an event just to see them play live. From start to finish they were simply superb, swinging between their heavier krautrock/psych songs like Point That Thing Somewhere Else and their concise pop songs like the gloriously pastoral Anything Could Happen. They showed they are still writing great songs with Factory Man and In The Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul from the recent Mister Pop album.

What made The Clean’s performance so absorbing was the way the trio worked so well both independently and as a unit – Drummer Hamish Kilgour often looked like a tranced out zen master, even playing with his hand when he lost a stick mid song. Robert Scott was rock solid with his throbbing and pulsing bass lines and David Kilgour showed what a great and underrated guitarist he is.

Their best known songs were treated with reverential applause from the audience. Getting Older was a surging tough version, Drawing To A Hole was light and uplifting and though the classic Tally Ho was cut short by a dead guitar it seemed appropriate in some perverse way. They joked they’re still a garage band but there is truth to the jibe – they still clearly retain that spark and vibe they had from the start of their career. Above all The Clean just proved just how timeless and magical their songs are.

this review first appeared in Drum Media