It’s dangerous business mixing cowboys and aliens; just ask the makers of the consistently-panned movie of the same name. Still, musically speaking, the two can always find a common ground in synthy, indie-garage pop. That’s what Sonny & the Sunsets are going for.
Antenna to the Afterworld is mostly a straightforward blend of these elements. There are male/female vocal harmonies and conversations. There’s a love song to a flower-selling “Girl on the Street,” there are upbeat, catchy hooks paired with lyrics about feeling a “Void,” or rather “a funny kind of sad joy” – on that same track, there’s even the token ‘record someone talking about the song over the top of it’ tactic, as someone says “I like that part!” and proceeds to sing along with the bassline. To boot, Sonny has a lisp that may not sound particularly like Isaac Brock’s, but you get the picture: it’s lo-fi indie that’s not exactly boundary-breaking.
Which is fine for some, but if you’re a bit of an originality snob (like myself), don’t fret yet, because this album does have some cinematic aces up its sleeves, particularly channeling clairvoyants and the spirits of dead and murdered friends. Which makes sense considering Sonny’s past credits from playwright to art-house; he once created 100 fictional bands with a single for each, based on the “personalities” of the album covers created by 100 artists commissioned by Sonny himself. The man can prolifically tell musical stories, and does so here with levity and plenty of reverb.
The one-minute-and-change instrumental “Death Scene” should rather be titled “Chase Scene” or “Montage” and could fit in most any Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarantino movie. Whereas the closing track “Green Blood” even depicts a romance with an alien previously married to a cyborg who ends up shooting her. She survives, but the new couple break up anyway in true ‘90’s alternative semi-apathetic fashion (a vibe we see earlier: “On my hand, there’s a scar/From the time, well never mind”). The psychedelic outro really takes us into where UFOs meet Middle America as he tries to find her, unsure whether to look in space or heaven: [LISTEN]
My antennae went deep into the afterworld
And I looked for her
The night was quite luminous
The star gleams, comet trails
Little trips to the outer cosmos like this one are scattered about the album, keeping it from being too heavy on bittersweet reminiscence from an older-and-wiser perspective and a Bob Dylan inflection, likewise heard on “Natural Acts.” Even on these space age detours, the timbres are still very warm and familiar. So if that’s your bag, don’t consider it too harsh for your mellow.