ROCKIN’ ALL OVER THE WORLD—AUSTRALIA

SUNNY BUT OVERCAST

It is a puzzle why some bands get so little attention outside their country of origin. And sometimes precious little inside it. The debut by Sydney’s Sunnyboys is an excellent example of an album that is worthy of greater regard. It would most likely thrill fans of Matthew Sweet’s more driving work (I’m thinking Altered Beast) or rowdy Kinks. We’re at the power end of the power-pop continuum here folks, with a basic four-piece rock and roll band smashing out three to four minute songs with verses, choruses and the guitar solos. Yipee!

Sunnyboys was released in 1981 and had some success on the back of two singles. The album was produced by Aussie guitar legend Lobby Loyde and is strong from start to finish, with the stunning one-two punch of “Happy Man” and “Alone With You” the core. These were the singles, and rightly so (even though neither made it into the upper reaches of the charts; an absolute travesty. They’d both be in my all time Australian Top 20). These two in particular are catchy and memorable… and have a thread of darkness that defines the best power pop.

I know it's hard when you have cried
When the conversation’s terror, you have tied
Making out you still don't know
All I have is alcohol to let me go
I'm alone with you tonight
I'm alone with you tonight

There may be nothing especially innovative musically—it’s straight-ahead indie rock, played with commitment and intensity—but the twin guitars are tight and sound great (thanks Lobby!) while the lyrics are amongst the more interesting in the power pop domain. 

I've gotta hang up
I can't communicate
I've gotta hang up
But I'm a happy man

That’s down to Jeremy Oxley, songwriter and central figure in the band. Jeremy has struggled with mental illness for much of his life and awareness of his own unique perspective permeates the lyrics (“Trouble in my brain”). There is a fascinating, sometimes uncomfortable documentary about Jeremy’s journey, called The Sunnyboy. If it passes by you, stop it and have a conversation. It’s enthralling. I certainly came away wiser and more compassionate.

Every time I listen to Sunnyboys, I enjoy the guitar sound more. There are some really interesting variations and patterns. Tonight, as I write, it’s the surf guitar touch in “Tunnel of love” and the descending “Ahhh” backing vocals. A few songs have carefully layered harmonies, adding depth to Jeremy’s fairly limited vocal range. Similarly, the album as a whole is lifted by the songs featuring keyboards (piano on “Trouble in my brain”, organ on “Gone”) plus a bit more production. 

You don’t have to hang around
Pretend you understand
We’re not here to compromise
I’ve gone to the other side

There were five albums (including a live one) by Sunnyboys during the ten years from 1981 and although none reach the heights of this self-titled slab of high-octane down-beat power pop, all are worth checking out. But this electric debut is the one to get. If you use the metric of number of songs singled out in a review as an indicator of quality, this disc scores.

For info, the currently available re-issue has tried (with modest success) to revitalise the original rubbish cover art and offers lovely blue vinyl as a bonus.

 

The Rockin’ All Over The World series examines the site statistics for Vinyl Connection and selects a period where a particular nation topped the visitor count. We then feature an album from that country. This is the third such article.

But wait, there’s more! Whenever possible, I’ll feature albums that also fit into the occasional series 101 More Albums You Must Hear Before Your Turntable Dies. Sunnyboys fits the bill admirably.

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11 comments

  1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    You have a nice global presence with your readership there! Nicely done! Great catching up this week, thanks for joining us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was fun! Not to mention the ego stroking that attends being dubbed Prof Prog. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Dude you’ve earned it. Take any accolades that come with it! We’ll hit you up again to wax poetic, it’s a real joy for everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, these guys sound mighty good. And yep, the music world can be quite weird and bands that would deserve to be better known remain obscure. Of course, there could be many reasons, starting with poor promotion by the record company, a less than capable band manager, etc. And, yes, sometimes it’s also also plain lack of luck that could help an artist, such as meeting a great producer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Perfect: “If it passes by you, stop it and have a conversation.” Took a listen to Happy Man, Alone With You, and Tunnel Of My Love on YouTube. Punchy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yer a gem, JDB.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a Matthew Sweet fan, but for me, at least after listening to a 1/2-dozen tunes, I think the Kinks comparison is good (do y’all say “spot on,” or is that just in TV shows), and surprised I’ve never run across them before, so thanks! Fingers crossed also that New Caledonia will top your chart sometime, not a place you see mentioned very often, music from there would be interesting, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Matthew Sweet is a real star in Vinyl Connection land, Robert. Just acquired a new copy of Girlfriend on pink vinyl (natch) and Altered Beast on blue.
      New Caledonia, eh? If it happens that the population invades VC, I could probably find a French connection, do you think?
      (Spot on is spot on.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The Kinks reference has really got me.

    Liked by 2 people

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