Sonny And The Sunsets : Tomorrow Is Alright
Sonny Smith has a sweet voice; a nostalgic, wry, sighing sound that is equal parts earnestness and irony. The same can be said for the Sonny And The Sunsets album as a whole, actually. Tomorrow Is Alright is the perfect balm for the heat of summer, wafting in on a cool Pacific ocean breeze, all the way from 1961. It's a garage rock record with soft surf-rock accents, which is knowingly retro but still kind of sincere, bedded down in gauzy layers of American film and music history.
Opening track and lead single Too Young to Burn is all jaded love and youthful ennui, wrapped in slow hand claps and gentle strums of acoustic guitar. “Every tear rolling down is a lesson learned,” Sonny sings, and Johnny Depp in Cry Baby comes immediately to mind, with his tattooed tear and doleful eyes. Sonny’s got the same kitsch John Waters’ cuteness; he may be heartbroken, but he’s also a heartbreaker.
Despite its sly sexual allusions, Strange Love has the pre-counter culture innocence of 1950’s r’n’b, evoking Earth Angel and the ‘Enchantment Under The Sea’ dance of Back To The Future. Whereas Planet Of Women, an adorable and quietly hilarious tune, casts Sonny as a downtrodden Buck Rogers in a made-for-TV sci-fi adventure involving drag queens and spaceship hi-jacking. The almost spoken word delivery includes Leader Of The Pack-style contributions from a female Sunset, who coos “Poor little Sonny” at the end of the song, when the demoralised space man suggests he might throw himself in a river. His morose narrative continues later in Bad Vibes And Evil Thoughts, where Sonny channels The Velvet Underground and moves on from his sci-fi adventures to a rebellious sixties art scene phase.
I don’t mean to suggest that Tomorrow Is Alright is a novelty record, blindly replicating the quaint musical styles of yesteryear. There is some incredible songcraft at work here, with memorable hooks at every turn and a clever kind of restraint in the arrangements, which are relaxed but never sloppy. The tone shifts in subtle ways, too, never quite fixing on one particular era, making doo-wop surf sounds a fresh idea for a new decade in indie rock. It’s mid-century twee but also very cool, and it’s the perfect antidote to overbaked electro rock and soulless synth pop that dominates our airwaves.
Tomorrow Is Alright will have you smiling through the long hot days ahead, and dreaming of a perfect world where the shy and funny Sonny is our leader.