On first look at Sunflower Bean, you might think Bob Dylan had dropped in on Debbie Harry and formed a band with Frank Zappa. As awesome as that sounds, this New York trio are actually better. And on debut album ‘Human Ceremony’, they fuse Led Zeppelin’s raunchy riffs with the blissful mid-’80s indie of Felt, the best bits of ’80s alt-pop (The Cure) and krautrock (Neu!) and, in front-duo Julia Cumming and Nick Kivlen, have the kind of boy-girl chemistry last seen in the White Stripes.
But that’s not all. When Kivlen’s crunchy fretwork is set against Cumming’s fragile croon on gambolling rocker ‘Come On’ we are introduced to the band’s love of a dramatic mood change. When the pair swap roles on the shimmering Haim-ey ‘Easier Said’ – which comes with a chorus tailor-made for festival season – they take us to a place of chilled-out pop bliss.
Elsewhere, they’re as adept at whipping out rasping Marc Bolan vocals (Kivlen is clearly a fan) on psych jam ‘Space Exploration Disaster’, ripping into stage-crumbling garage rock (‘This Kinda Feeling’), or settling into the absorbing, off-kilter harmonies of ‘2013’.
They are quite something, and not just a two-person show. Drummer Jacob Faber is the key to keeping the whole thing together, and his taut snare work is what keeps the trio from floating off into the stratosphere, especially when Kivlen decides it’s time for a guitar wig outs, as on ‘Creation Myth’.
Yet despite such talent, the three twenty-somethings from Brooklyn lack confidence. “What do you do when you’re stuck between days, and your days can’t keep up with your days?” goes Cumming over Kivlen’s jangly ode to lazy teen life, ‘I Was Home’. Later they’re stressing over the fleeting nature of youth on ‘Wall Watcher’ – a tense, restless track full of anxious lines like “Where did the time go?/It gets faster as we go”.
It’s exciting that they don’t know how good they are. It’s even more exciting how much more they have to give.
- Record label: Fat Possum Records
- Release date: 05 Feb, 2016