It must be tough being young, really tough. When I was but a small lad, life was much more simple, the biggest stress I had was the decision of whether to watch Swap Shop or Tiswas on a Saturday morning. Musically, we were yet to really discover electronic music, and grime was something you cleaned off your Chopper. On this premise, I have nothing but sympathy for the latest darlings of New York, Sunflower Bean. There is an inevitable buzz around this three-piece and why not, they are young, good looking and come loaded with an album chock-full of achingly cool sighs and nods to the past.
But therein lies their Achilles’ heel, haven’t we heard all this somewhere before?
A mere glance at Faber, Cumming and Kivlen will give you enough clues about what is to follow. A young David Crosby, a pre-electric Dylan and a lead singer who is channeling The Primitives‘ Tracey Tracey leave you in no doubt that you’re in for the latest incarnation of psych-garage New York-style. It would be very easy, yet lazy, to dismiss this as yet another uber-cool New York act rehashing the past and repackaging it in spanking new Converse trainers. So I won’t. Because it’s actually good. Very good. After all, it’s not the fault of Sunflower Bean that we’ve heard it all before, that we’re tired and cynical of anything with a whiff of the past. But if this is how the past is going to sound in the future then count me in.
The titular track ‘Human Ceremony‘ sets the general tone with jingly jangly garage guitars providing the backdrop to Julia Cumming’s lamenting vocal “I want you to stay here/I feel so much better on my own,” and if the album does have a weakness then it comes in the form of the rather vacuous lyrics which offer little insight into their world of wonder. On ‘I Was Home‘ there is the startling revelation that “I was home and then I wasn’t“. In my universe, that’s known as ‘going out’.
Cumming often resembles Sarah Cracknell in her twee, girl-next-door delivery aside on ‘2013‘ where the band change tack and provide a weird trippy dance number, which stands in stark contrast to the remainder of the album, but offers promise for further depth in the future. This is, after all, their debut release recorded in a mere seven days and there is a genuine confidence on display combined with a rich knowledge of their musical heritage. The only disappointment is the absence of ‘Tame Impala‘ from last year’s EP which would have added a change of tempo to a singularly laconic release.
Yes, I know the music press are already starting to fawn over Sunflower Bean and whilst I don’t wish to join the collective love-in I can’t deny there is a certain whimsy, a delicious and innocent charm to the band which will brighten up the last vestiges of Winter and last well until the daffodils have finally given up the ghost.
‘Human Ceremony‘ is released on February 5th