Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Sunny Day Real Estate

Sunny Day Real Estate- How It Feels To Be Something On

I’ve mentioned the apocryphal nature of Sunny Day Real Estate elsewhere on this web page. For the sake of review, though, here we go: the band broke up under mysterious circumstances in the mid-nineties after releasing a great debut (‘Diary’) and a follow up that inspired legions of sensitive boys in tight shirts to go back to the basement and practice their time changes (‘LP2,’ or, if yr. feeling Zeppelin, the Pink Album). There were rumors fueled by shady internet postings about singer Jeremy Enigk being born again, followed a fresh round by about the band reforming (which turned out to be true).

Early SDRE stuff had a tendency to rely on the loud/soft dichotomy to deliver the goods, the whole Pixies/Nirvana thing. LP2 didn’t lean so heavily on the trick- there was more of a focus on songwriting, trying to get parts that flowed into each other. That album was a success, but didn’t always cohere. If you listened to the rumors, the record was pieced together from several sessions (believable, I think- the last song, ‘Rodeo Jones’, first showed up on a promotional CD single from the ‘Diary’ days). Still, though, despite the kinks in the track order, ‘LP2’ was canonized, deified. The eventual news that Sunny Day was getting back together was strange- it’s common as hell nowadays for bands to reform and tour. Back then, though, in 1998, bands re-forming and putting new records out was fairly unprecedented. Everyone was excited, but wary. What if the new record sucked? How would it retroactively rub off on the existing discography?

Not even an issue.

‘How It Feels’ is the band’s magnum opus, the best record of their career. Lush and fully developed, excellent musicianship throughout, with nary a scream to be heard (just the one at the end of ‘The Prophet’, which echoes the lyric “With a scream”). There’s a sense of orchestral playfulness to be heard, reminding me of the solo album that Enigk put out during Sunny Day’s hiatus. The band sounds confident and relaxed as they navigate their way through the gamut of heavy-ish rock, pensive post-whatever and loping waltzes. Enigk’s vocals are as consistent and strong, ranging from whining falsetto (an acquired taste, I know) to his normal insect mating call. Tension builds and releases with more ease and less overly dramatic bombast, sighing and heaving at moments the pre-breakup act would have never thought of. Not a dud to be found.

(If there was any justice in this world, some cable network would pick up my idea for a reality TV show: Sunny Day Real Estate following around this starlet of the past, narrating her day the same way that Jonathan Richman did in “There’s Something About Mary.” The trials and tribulations of a once-hot actress who has fallen out of favor with the viewing public, trying to scrape together a comeback as successful as Sunny Day Real Estate’s.

What’s the show called?

You guessed it: How It Feels To Be Goldie Hawn.

Execs, get in touch.)

MIX TAPE: Guitar And Video Games

Sunny Day Real Estate- The Rising Tide

Yeah, it sounds a little bit different than ‘Goldie Hawn’- that’s because they could afford to get a better producer, one, and went down to three members who played all the instruments in the studio, two. A little bit less organic as a result, the three of ‘em swapping instruments back and forth in this new, fuller-than-ever sonic environment. New record label, blah blah blah.

I wasn’t fond of this one for a while, but it’s grown on me, snuck up a little bit. The songs tend to yawn on longer at the beginning and end, the elongation machine, and because of the whole in-studio three piece thing described above, they tend to be a little bit simpler, probably so they can be played live with more ease, I don’t know. Bigger, dumber riffs than I’m used to from the band, anyway. Thing is that they work. Granted, I’m not so fond of ‘Television’, probably the biggest, dumbest song on the record (and, not surprisingly, the single), but with that aside, the beefed-up production and stripped-down songwriting works a whole hell of a lot better than that lackluster Fire Theft record that came out a few years down the road from this one.


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