This writer still hasn’t unpinned his end-of-year tweet applauding Sunflower Bean’s Twentytwo in Blue as the finest album of 2018, and now they’re threatening to own 2019 as well. Undeniably cool from the start, the band displayed a fierce but tender edge on their sophomore. On new EP King of the Dudes, the songs cut like obsidian scalpels tossed from a tall building and carve their melodies into your skin.
While guitarist Nick Killeen’s style continues to coalesce in tone and style, giving the band a signature vibe, Sunflower Bean’s power-pop glam rock wouldn’t hold up without Julia Cumming. Over a few short years, Cumming has developed into an undeniable force of nature. She stakes her claim to the vacant rock throne on the EP’s title track singing, “I know what I want and I know how to get it” while making veiled references, perhaps, to Freddie Mercury (“I can be your queen, if you know what I mean”), Kurt Cobain (“slay like aqua seafoam shame”) and Chris Cornell (“yeah, you know my name”).
The EP’s lead single “Come For Me” has a perfect breakdown at the end of the first chorus where the soaring vocals disappear and Cumming’s bass line dances alone in an abandoned disco. The restraint unsettles the listener and pulls us closer than ever before. Such moments are never there for long which makes them even more special. On “The Big One”, Cumming rebels against a music industry which expects her to play a familiar role with a savage smile that is more Joan Jett than Courtney Love, as the band pushes even deeper into the punk roots of their hometown.
On King of the Dudes, the band covers a lot of ground over 12 minutes without sounding like they stitched together a plethora of influences in hopes of finding the right pastiche. These days, it’s hard to imagine a young band that hasn’t devoured the entire history of rock-n-roll before playing their first notes. For some, it’s a curse but for others, it’s a blessing. Sunflower Bean are wickedly clever at building on the past to carry rock-n-roll forward in a postmodernist world. We need larger-than-life rock-n-roll bands and Sunflower Bean are proving that they are up to the task.
Release: 25th January 2019, Lucky Number