Saturday, June 30, 2012

New Sonny & the Sunsets, Tumbleweed Wanderers

Longtime Companion
* *
Longtime Companion is a breakup record, a testament to the end of a 10-year relationship.  Yet despite trying to be a deeply personal record, Longtime Companion feels somehow more distant than the ruminations on youth on last year’s excellent Hit After Hit.  One of the primary reasons for this is the quite unusual stylistic shift from exuberant garage-pop to old-fashioned country.  Another is a substandard performance from Sonny Smith, whose vocals are too weak to deserve being as front-and-center as they are here--especially when singing unusually hokey lyrics like “Now I’m drunk on too much wine/ Oh well, you know it’s too-much-wine-drinking time.”  Though it fails to provide much of an emotional connection as the best breakup albums do, Longtime Companion does occasionally succeed on the base of its arrangements, particularly the soft flutes on “I Was Born” and the sugary steel guitars on “Pretend You Love Me” and “Sea of Darkness.”

“Roll With The Times”
* * * 1/2
This swaggering, Black Keys-ish cut is a rerecorded version of an earlier single from Tumbleweed Wanderers’ self-titled EP from last year as well as the first single from their upcoming debut album.  It’s a classically San Francisco-sounding cut, with a Santana-ish chord progression, Sixties guitars and a guitar solo that wouldn’t sound out of place in the hallowed halls of the Fillmore.  However, with a little help from legendary Bay Area producer/musician John Vanderslice, it’s been expanded and fleshed out.  Massive, gritty saxophones now dominate the landscape, and the song chugs along with more strut and swagger.  Instead of a meandering rumination, it’s now a celebratory exhortation that almost sounds like a call for action.  Everybody, get hip!

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