Complicated Communicators

Whereas Marilyn Manson communicates with Satan (how trendy!), Sunny Day Real Estate chat with emo-core elves.

When a legend returns, there's bound to be a little fanfare. In the case

of Sunny Day Real Estate, the celebration may be muted, but it'll be

there. In their brief first gasp, Sunny Day came to exemplify "emo-core"

-- melodic, anthemic punk-rock highly charged with emotion. They meant a

lot of things to a lot of people: Substituting passion for anger, they

subverted the normal expectations for hardcore. They were earnest

without being constantly pissed off.

Originally agreeing to get back together and record a few new songs for

a collection of unreleased tracks, Sunny Day ended up with a

full-fledged reunion -- albeit without original bassist Nate Mendel,

who's gone on to bigger paychecks and simpler riffs with the Foo

Fighters, a band that was, for a time, also a draw for Sunny Day drummer

William Goldsmith. With former Mommyheads bassist Jeff Palmer, the band

recorded How It Feels To Be Something On for their old label, Sub

Pop --

who desperately need to come up with a Next Big Thing.

Given the accomplishments of the bandmembers during their hiatus --

Goldsmith thugging it out with the Foo Fighters,

singer/songwriter/guitarist Jeremy Enigk recording the orchestral pop

album Return of the Frog Queen -- maybe it shouldn't come as a

surprise that How It Feels sounds a little like a Rush album.

Precise, elaborate, and not exactly poppy, the new songs are a little tough

to slog through.

Sunny Day fans may not be disappointed, but this record has about as much

chance of picking up new fans as a Kings X album. We like our music

direct and easy to understand these days (when have we not?), and though

Enigk (whose name spellchecks as "enigma," fittingly) is a deft,

impassioned communicator, he's not exactly as transparent as a Marilyn

Manson.

Forty-five minutes of anthems can get a little wearing, too. The title

song works almost like an overture, despite being situated smack in the

middle of the record. Most tracks are skillfully played, with

now-swirling, now-crushing guitar lines and the odd circular rhythm pattern.

Album-opener "Pillars" has serious drive, but on it and "The

Shark's Own Private Fuck," among others, you wonder why Enigk sings like

he's trying to communicate with elves, all twisted, nasal vowels and

rolled "ld" sounds (like "a hollow woulled" for "a hollow world"). It's

an affectation I can live without.

Still, it's a welcome return for a band that's never tried to snag its

spot on the zeitgeist. Still following their own road, Sunny Day Real

Estate will continue to confound the many and speak directly (if

obliquely) to the few who already get it.