Dreamin’ of You by The Sunbathers is a love letter to power pop via the Fab Four, XTC, Crowded House and Fountains Of Wayne. The band wears their influences on their sleeves and pays homage to them in the way they understand the construction of the songs.
The best song on the album is “Turn You On,” which has a Kinks-like quality to the harmonic and rhythmic structure with a McCartney-esque melody. The boom-chunk of the guitar along with the shuffle feel of the drums gives a jazzy flavor that opens up to a more rocking chorus. “In The Morning, By The Door” is an acoustic-based song that sounds like Elliott Smith channeling James Taylor. The folk quality of the song is effective, stripped down to a fingerpicked guitar, an acoustic solo and some folky harmonies. The build of adding the second guitar and vocal harmonies is very clever and adding tambourine and organ near the end fits very well within the structure of the song.
“When We’re Apart” is pure power-pop from the early 1960s. The lyrics are clever, the melody very cute and the guitar melodies that echo the vocal line fit directly into the style without sounding cliché. “Over And Over Again” has a fantastic melody that is enhanced by some great harmonies that really stretch the range and give a nice vulnerability. The bass line really drives the song and has some great higher octave moments. There are some nice piano chords as well although the doubling of the melody sometimes feels a bit much. “If Anyone Asks” follows a Freddie Green guitar chunking pattern and an adventurous bass line with some heavenly harmonies and a harmonized guitar break. The song is structured well with the drums hitting harder as the song goes on as well as the addition of a synth and fuzzed out guitars. It doesn’t radically change the mood of the song, but it’s a nice addition to give it some growth.
Not all of the tracks reach the same heights. The album opens with “There’s Nothing Better” a power-pop infused song with some rockabilly roots. Following The Beatles “Nowhere Man” path, there’s an instrumental just after the first verse and chorus which doesn’t quite rise to the excitement of the vocal delivery, but the bridge is very well written and appears twice pushing the song along quite nicely. The chorus also has a great catchy hook.
“All I’ve Got” is a trippy take on some Rubber Soul/Revolver era Beatles with some heavy reverb on the vocals and an interesting delay on the guitar for the solo. Some of the lyrics could use some spicing up and exploration. Instrumentally, however the guitar solo near the end is exciting and the addition of the tambourine really enhances the end of the song. “Dreamin’ Of You” incorporates the piano into the instrumentation, which works to vary up the sounds and has some excellent hits. The melody is catchy, but again some variation in the repetition of the refrain could open up some other possibilities.
“Peacetime Casualties” has an interesting contrast of a sing-song-y chirpy verse with a grungier instrumental section. The first section is more tone clusters than melody, giving it a Sonic Youth flavor. The second has a psychedelic multiple guitar solos playing simultaneously. There’s a lot going on between the backing oohs, the lyrics and the multitude of guitars, and it would be interesting to hear some of the sections more stripped down or focused to bring each section out a little bit. “Your Love’s A Show” also comes out of the early Lennon/McCartney songwriting playbook. The surf beat with occasional handclaps fits well in the style, and the bridge is very well written. Some of the vocal harmonies don’t feel as strong in this song, however, losing some of the edge that the lyrics and melodic arc could take.
The album closes with “You’re Not Listening,” a sunny shiny power pop via some XTC vocal inflections. The melody is extremely catchy, the lyrics smart and the shift between verse and chorus very effective in energy and contrasting tone. This song really sums up the strengths of the band, being able to balance the repetition inherent in a power-pop song with enough variation.
Overall, the songs are well written but most effective when the edginess of the lyrics is allowed to come out in the delivery both vocally and instrumentally. Some slimming down of the texture could also occasionally streamline some of the songs as well. That being said, the enthusiasm the band has for their influences is quite tangible and they have continued the tradition of writing power pop quite nicely.
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