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
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
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.