“If you hold us back. You know that we can shout.” Comparable in many ways to Wolf Alice, New York 22-year-olds Sunflower Bean are a band that, although they have obvious classic rock influences from various decades, from the psychedelic glam of T-Rex (1970’s), to the jangly pop of The Smiths & The Cure (1980’s) to the garage rock of Dandy Warhols (1990’s) and The Black Keys (2000’s), they also attempt to speak for the current generation – disillusioned and lost yet optimistic that tight communities and looking out for each other is the answer to a hopeful future.
On their debut album Human Ceremony, the alternative rock trio of Julia Cummings, Nick Kivlen and Jacob Faber showcased a catalogue of songs written at various stages of their teenagehood, which sometimes came across as simplistic, slacker and repetitive. But that was a point. They simultaneously reflected a teenager’s sense of cyclical boredom and directionless, whilst communicating comprehensibly to the audiences that they tirelessly visited on tours. This refreshingly unclouded approach to lyrics is updated to the trio’s current mindset on Sunflower Bean’s second record Twentytwo In Blue. The 22-year-olds now have more of a self-assured sense of purpose and action.
‘Crisis Fest’ – a clever combination of music and political terminology – shows clear disappointment with the current world: “2017 we know. Reality is one big sick show. You’ve been in school for 10 years now, 80 grand indebted down. Every day’s a missile test“. Yet at their “crisis fest”, they encourage the youth to show protesting defiance: “If you hold us back. You know that we can shout.”
Furthermore ‘Twentytwo’, ‘Human For’ and ‘Burn It’ have an erupting rage in them that states that enough-is-enough. ‘Twenty Two’ has a strong message about the pressure thrust upon women to consistently look young and how they are becoming labelled as old at ridiculous ages, even at 22 she states they are seen as “busted and used“. A good example of this odd disposal of aging women in the entertainment industry would be in all-female J-Pop idol groups.
The confident rock anthem ‘Human For’ carries on Sunflower Bean’s interrogation of religion from their debut album – when they questioned the Christian explanation of the beginning of the universe in ‘Creation Myth’ and helpless devotees to Jesus on ‘Oh I Just Don’t Know – this time they state: “I don’t need your religion, I don’t need your protection. I don’t need your fear“. The track includes a speech of a priest reciting passages from the Bible but his speech is malfunctioned by psychedelic liquid and then Julia Cumming announces: “I speak to the sound of your rhythm“.
Something that was special about their debut was the dual vocals between Julia Cummings and Nick Kivlen. This is something that’s even stronger this time around. The Fleetwood Mac reminiscent ‘I Was A Fool’ and The Righteous Brothers‘ style ‘Any Way You Like’ are sweet soft rock songs that focus on the trio’s close connection.
Listening to them imagines a young couple slowly swaying on the dance floor of a high school prom. They sing like Sonny and Cher. “You can drive in my car,” sings Julia Cummings on the latter, as Nick Kivlen responds with “If I can drive in yours.” Like Wolf Alice, Sunflower Bean are capable of switching from the rock ‘n’ roll fury to slower melancholy but as Cummings rarely shouts or swears and has fairly reserved vocal chords, the transition feels more effortless.
Although Sunflower Bean’s Twenty To In Blue won’t be the most original LP of the year, it’s undeniably significant, as it’s an insightful guide book for the older generation in understanding how the youth feel today.
TwentyTwo In Blue is out on 23rd March through Lucky Number.