Sonny & The Sunsets
Talent Night at the Ashram
It’s hard to get a grasp on what it is Sonny & The Sunsets create, musically. Sonny Smith’s latest is full of mystical West Coast folk tales with a rambling, pre-punk feel (read: slashing guitar occasionally and overall no-fucks-given vibe). Talent Night at the Ashram is sort of like Emilio Estevez’s character from Repo Man taking on Chad & Jeremy’s Of Cabbages and Kings. But it’s not fully that either. Convoluted song-stories about weirdos come in and out of focus throughout the band’s fifth full-length. Sonny works best within concise tracks (The Sunsets sound especially harmonious on “Cheap Extensions”), but when he strays, it’s really far-out. Take “Happy Carrot Health Food Store”—in which he detours into the absurd (culminating in a conversation with a dog)—as a seven-minute example of that jumble. Listening to Ashram is like playing chess with a jester in the desert—silly, strange, and a bit futile.