Oh Yeah? (Brown Vinyl)
Despite (perhaps) being the band’s most accessible & melodic work to date, New York quartet Sunwatchers' fourth album arrives in a flurry of notes with the buzzing hum of "Sunwatchers vs. Tooth Decay"; the title referencing a 1976 album featuring athlete and activist Muhammad Ali. A cheeky nod to be sure, but laced with the utmost reverence. This attitude sums up Sunwatchers’ aesthetic in a nutshell; the acknowledgement (typically via the band’s irreverent song titles or album art) that the things in life we should take seriously are better faced and understood when disarmed by a wink or nudge.
The band may cloak their fiery activism in a jester's outfit, but it does nothing to dull the force of their attack. The one-two punch of "Love Paste" & "Brown Ice" hits next, with the former's tender opening melody punctuated by exuberant "WOO!"s while the latter launches into an urgent, stuttering march that utilizes an effective musical wind-up and release, ratcheting up a ferocious intensity across its near six-minute runtime. "Thee Worm Store" closes out the first side, beginning with a lumbering synth growl, until it picks up speed and ends as a frantic noisy free-for-all. Side two strides forth with "The Conch", an obvious 'Lord of The Flies' reference, and a delicious subversion of the idea of a "hero's anthem" weighted down by the trappings of tribalism. The album's showstopper, however, is "The Earthsized Thumb", the near twenty-minute closing track. Guitarist Jim McHugh lays down a hypnotic Saharan guitar melody as the rest of the band ushers themselves in one by one over the tune's distinct musical movements, a cosmic "Quick One" for all the heads perhaps?
The album’s title "Oh Yeah?" is at once an homage to Mingus, Thee Oh Sees' album "Help" (whose Brigid Dawson hand-sewed the tapestry adorning the album's front cover), and (naturally) the rallying cry of KoolBrave himself - the Kool-Aid Man-as-Braveheart avatar the band adopted as their symbol.
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