SUNSHINE & THE RAIN – In The Darkness Of My Night

With the bleep of old style tone test, Sunshine & The Rain open their 2017 long player in a most unexpected manner. Kicking square into ‘Let’s Go’, their music, too, has a very old soul…and it’s all the better for that. It might seem at once that this duo’s main musical stock comes from tried and tested garage rock noise, but just as quickly as the distorted guitars assert themselves, the harsh melodies are topped off with plinking glockenspiels in a contest for the ultimate contrast. The vocals come with almost a sweet naivety, as Ashley Morey (previously of New Jersey’s The Black Hollies), approaches her performance with a clarity and an almost bubblegum inspired sound. With the push and pull between the noise and the pop, you’ll either love or hate this band immediately. If you hate them, your opinion is the wrong one. Within a couple of minutes, Sunshine & The Rain assert themselves as the most exciting thing to happen on the garage rock scene since Coach ‘n’ Commando released ‘FBP!K!K!‘ the previous summer…or maybe even since Brockley Forest dropped their third EP way back in 2015.

While the idea of an old Suicide demo combined with vocals culled from bubblegum punk (or even 60s girl group mentality) might suggest that Sunshine have front loaded this album with their best and brashest offering, it really isn’t the case at all. It’s arguably among the more accessible, but the next run of tracks takes the bones of that sound and – although sometimes makes it more obtuse – it’s a sound that almost always seems to evolve. From the dirty mechanical ‘Little Rag Doll’ and ‘I’m Not Your Girl’ which shamelessly recycles the guts of The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’ as if it were a Band of Skulls demo, the band are on a roll. Even the snotty ‘Come On Baby’ takes further steps to cement the love of pop against ugly fuzz to new heights. It’s a perfect example of the nasty/sweet noise that pumps this act’s twisted heart, as Ashley flaunts old style melodies that could be appropriated from old Phil Spector 45s, while husband Justin throws out various fearsome musical shapes that take huge cues from William Reid’s classic Jesus & Mary Chain works. ‘Come On Baby’ is certainly an album highlight…if not the most perfect example of the Sunshine & The Rain sound.

‘Merchandise’ keeps up momentum by employing a musical backdrop that has an amphetamine buzz coupled with a wound-up clockwork backbeat. If the early Yeah Yeah Yeahs entered the studio coiled up like springs and tapped into early Wire, the results might’ve sounded halfway like this. The relentless buzz of Justin’s guitars is simple but thrilling; Ashley’s vocal style is perfectly balanced by squalls of feedback and electronic treatments. Midway, everything falls away to reveal a deep bass buzz and heavy drum. Beneath the layers of noise, there’s much more going on here than first appears and it almost goes without saying the live sound of the recording adds so much fire to the performance. ‘So Far, So Close’ makes a bigger play for the old 60s pop vibes – especially in the way the drums bash out a measured beat – while a sweeter vocal also highlights a twee leaning that’s not always as clear on a few of the other numbers. There’s still a world of distortion, but like ‘Let’s Go’, the sweet and sour angle is paramount. Moving towards the track’s natural climax, the poppier sheen is set off balance by a world of vocal filters, all to great effect. ‘Going The Wrong Way’ cheekily lifts from ‘Be My Baby’, before working great, fuzzed up, fucked up riffage that’s could be from the very heart of the New York shoegaze scene. Vocally, it’s another classic, with Ashley tapping into a semi-nonchalant post-punk drawl. It’s kind of abrasive but always keeps one eye firmly upon a great melody. Once everything stops abruptly, it’s very clear that somewhere in the middle of it all, you’ve just heard a great slice of alternative pop in garage rock clothes and another contender for a stand-out number.

Moving towards the end of a disc that uses brevity to its advantage, ‘Take Me Out’ recycles some very familiar mechanics and fuzz but has such an infectious energy, ‘Can’t Stop Thinking About You’ makes a play for a warmer sound, but subsequently challenges that with some fiery and atonal bursts of lead guitar in a way that melds garage rock with the most scratchy shoegaze, while ‘In A Dream’ wheels out an old girl group vocal and echoing drum one last time for good measure. If you liked this style when the album began, you’ll love it by now. While there are a few places where the voice could perhaps be clearer in the mix, this ends an already fine album with a genuine three minute gem.

Fuzzy, ugly and intense, yet so catchy: as an album, ‘In The Darkness of My Night’ is insanely focused. Rather than throwing out various noise rock chops to see what sticks, it’s clear that Justin and Ashley knew exactly what there were striving for…and it’s great. It’s not always the most varied record, but it really doesn’t have to be. If you ever wished The Ravonettes and The Kills had a bigger set of balls, or perhaps hoped one day Billy Childish somehow tapped into the guts of bands like Idealipsticks, this is a record you just can’t afford to miss.

April 2017

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