Sonny & The Sunsets shares the third single from their new album, Antenna to the Afterworld, which is out on June 11 via Polyvinyl - take a listen over at Stereogum. The band is touring soon, including a show tonight in LA at the Satellite. In addition to the regular full-band shows, Sonny Smith has a couple special performances coming up, including the multimedia / musical theater / spoken word show "Sees All Knows All" at the Roxie in SF on May 25 and in NYC at the Cake Shop on June 15.
Death? Afterworld? Android lovers dying in the streets bleeding green blood? Homeless girls? Dogs stranded here from other planets? What are Sonny & The Sunsets getting at on Antenna to the Afterworld, a fastmoving record of new wave synths and post punk beats?
The murder of a close friend of the band led Smith to think a lot about death and life after death. Shortly after, a visit to a psychic/medium brought Smith into contact with another friend who had died.
This encounter with the afterworld inspired many of the lyrics on Sonny & the Sunsets' new record. And what a strangely entertaining odyssey it turned out to be.
As a writer of songs, or plays, or short stories Smith has never limited himself to one style or theme. The restless trend of changing gears dramatically continues on Antenna to the Afterworld, which marks a total musical and narrative shift from last year's Longtime Companion (a country record that chronicled Smith's break-up).
On Antenna to the Afterworld, Smith likens himself to a space being visiting Earth using wry humor, gritty poetry, and a myriad of musical lenses fleshed out by drummer Kelley Stoltz's Joy Division-like beats, Ryan Browne's new wavish basslines, and Tahlia Harbour's deadpan vocals.
"I come from the planet of dogs / ... / And I walk on your streets / ... / and I can't wait to find / My little place in your weird world," Smith sings on opening track "Dark Corners," as the song's use of synthesizers lends the perfect sonic counterpart to the science fiction narrative.
His journey continues on "Mutilator," where he enchants the listener with a vivid description of the titular woman's lair: "Back at her place, a half eaten steak on a plate / And an old melon rind and some torn up drapes / And on her bed of nails she makes me lie / ... / Mutilator, you send shivers down my spine."
Later, "Girl on the Streets" proves to be one of the most immediate and infectious songs found on Antenna to the Afterworld, as Smith pairs an upbeat, major key melody with a candid depiction of a homeless girl he observes while walking the streets of his native San Francisco.
And it wouldn't be a Sonny Smith-penned album without a reworking of a previously released song. Just like "Pretend You Love Me" was transformed from a 50s doowop revamp (on Hit After Hit) to a Dylanesque country ballad (on Longtime Companion), on Antenna to the Afterworld Smith sheds the ramshackle country rock skin "I See The Void" wore on Longtime Companion and replaces it with a raucous high energy romp through classic Sunsets territory.
Soon after, the record closes with "Green Blood," a quasi-spoken word track that uses male/female call and response vocals to tell the tale of Sonny's affair with a spaceling. Though their love is ultimately doomed by their differences (and her cyborg husband), Sonny can't quite let her go.
"My antennas went deep into the afterworld / And I searched for her / Where the night is quiet / With star gleams / And comet trails," he narrates a beautifully composed conclusion to an (inter)stellar tale.
SONNY & THE SUNSETS
05/17 Los Angeles, CA - The Satellite
05/25 San Francisco, CA - The Roxie #
06/11 San Francisco, CA - The Eagle
06/13 Hamden, CT - The Outer Space *
06/14 Brooklyn, NY - Knitting Factory / Northside Fest
06/15 New York, NY - Cake Shop #
06/16 Pittsburgh, PA - The Smiling Moose *
06/17 Lakewood, OH - Mahalls 20 Lanes *
06/19 Indianapolis, IN - Radio Radio *
06/20 Detroit, MI - The Lager House *
06/21 Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen *
06/22 Iowa City, IA - The Englert Theater
07/12 Oaktown, CA - New Parish
07/13 Sacramento, CA - 2nd Saturday Art Walk
07/24 Visalia, CA - Howie & Sons Pizza
07/25 San Diego, CA - Casbah
07/26 Costa Mesa, CA - Detroit Bar
# = performance of "Sees All Knows All"
* = w/ Little Wings
Sonny & The Sunsets
Antenna To The Afterworld
1. dark corners
4. path of orbit
5. natural acts
6. girl on the street
7. death scene
10. earth girl
11. green blood
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.