There was an uncomfortable sense of unease across Sunflower Bean’s second album ‘Twentytwo In Blue’. Released in 2018 amid a whole lot of political turmoil, the troubled coming-of-age record saw the New York rock band struggle with their place in the world as they questioned relationships, role models and rebellion. When it was released, they quickly found out they weren’t the only ones feeling so helplessly frustrated (or frustratedly helpless).
As you might expect, nothing about the past few years has helped Sunflower Bean find a sense of peace: new album ‘Headful Of Sugar’ is just as furious.
“The TV makes me so mad / NPR is always telling me something bad / Everything made in a boardroom gets pumped straight into my head,” sneers vocalist Julia Cumming on scuzzy punk number ‘Baby Don’t Cry’. Elsewhere the moody, oppressive rock of ‘Roll The Dice’ sees Sunflower Bean satirise corporate greed, chanting, “Nothing in this life is really free / I just want to win.”
Don’t be fooled, though – ‘Headful Of Sugar’ is never bleak. The band created the record with a sense of “gleeful anarchy”, they’ve said, and the result is something that rages with a wonderful sense of freedom. While previous records have been beautiful or delicate, there’s an infectious raw energy zipping across Sunflower Bean’s third album. “Tomorrow is not promised,” Cumming explained when the record was first announced. “Why not make a record that makes you want to dance?”
‘Who Put You Up To This’ eases the listener into this evolved form of Sunflower Bean, a rumbling folk-rock song that soon hands the wheel to an incredibly funky guitar line, while the urgent ‘In Flight’ flirts with small town nihilism but ultimately exudes a giddy sense of escapism that would make Gorillaz proud. After that, Sunflower Bean really does let loose.
The swaggeringly self-assured ‘Beat The Odds’ takes inspiration from ‘00s indie, ‘Post Love’ is pure disco-pop while the title track is a rumbling R&B track cut with wailing electric guitar and ray guy synths. The lyrics are just as bold, as the band remains defiantly optimistic throughout. “I don’t care what tomorrow thinks / Today I’m totally mine,” Cumming sings on chirpy emo banger ‘I Don’t Have Control Sometimes’.
On ‘Twentytwo In Blue’, Sunflower Bean were terrified about the future, but ‘Headful Of Sugar’ sees the band more confident and more in control. Using those feelings of helplessness as fuel for the fire, this album is full of enough strength, empowerment, resilience and joy.
Release date: May 6
Record label: Lucky Number