Sonny and the Sunsets | The Shacklewell Arms | 7 September

After Nyne’s Andy Gorman reviews…

Watching Sonny and the Sunset perform is like watching someone on a psychedelic trip : it’s weird, at some points fucked up, but mostly entertaining.

On the stage of the Shacklewell arms, frontman Sonny Smith tells the crowd : “You’ve got cameras everywhere in this city. It’s 1984.” he pauses “but it’s cool coz we’re in a bunker”. The bunker being the small, intimate room in which the Sonny and the Sunsets are playing. The group attracted a decent sized crowd, but the place is far from packed. The music and the fans dancing in the front row feel like a flashback to the sixties : Sonny and the Sunsets are reminiscent of a scruffier, drugged Beach Boys and in the front row, girls with flared jeans and wavy blonde hair are dancing.

The San Francisco band are unapologetically bizarre. Their catchy tunes are paired with batshit crazy, essay like-lyrics. Sonny and the Sunsets take us into their world through nonsensical and often humorous stories like in the Application with lyrics like : “I filled out an application to be a human being […] and I lit my phone and answered my cigarette”. In Cheap Extension, they also follow a woman’s hair through a supermarket. While most of their lyrics are extremely random and drug infused, the guys also show a philosophical streak in their new track “Modern Age”, an essay about the times we live in.

Sonny and the Sunsets are much more shabby than they are chic. Their music is flawed, unpolished and the band is definitely not suitable for the casual listener who wouldn’t appreciate their sometimes chaotic tunes, the sometimes annoying amount of reverb (Happy Carrot Health Food Store, I’m looking at you) or the weird dialogues Sonny Smith has with the characters of is stories. What is certain, is their capacity to turn their surf-rock and psych pop infused songs into gold.

Sonny Smith is an awkward, yet charismatic frontman and he definitely does know how to be a rock star. During the gig, his banter keeps the mood light and when asked for an encore at the end of the set, Sonny Smith awkwardly slurs “yeah I don’t know if we can… oh well f*** it”. He proceeds to jump in the crowd so he can dance and sing with the crowd who goes crazy.While the band didn’t seem highly reactive during the first part of the gig (which may or may not be due to illicit substances), they certainly woke up of their dazed state by the end of it. And once they get going, Sonny and the Sunsets live up to their reputation.

Sonny and the Sunsets are definitely as fucked up as their songs, and while not everyone will appreciate their style, they are worth the price of a ticket.