Easy “Sun Years”
It’s true. I couldn’t resist adding another column in hopes of turning you cats and kittens on to more music. This is going to focus on discs primarily from the 80s (and early 90s) that have long been hard to find or sort of fell through the cracks of the collective consciousness. They will also be true records in that you should own the whole thing and not download just a few songs. To make life easy, I will focus on spending some of your eMusic credits. The service is still spotty with new releases but an amazing array of back catalogues have come on-line and digging through ebay or gemm has now been simplified to single clicks at a fraction of the cost. Sit back and enjoy!
I was actually looking for the only domestic release by these Scandinavian fuzzpoppers, “Magic Seed” to tip you good folks towards when I found a true rare jewel! “Sun Years” which came out in Europe soon after and was being worked on in 1990 – the same year the group caught Blast First’s attention and managed their Mute distributed long player. Their sound was just a little too much noise and not enough overt pop to compete with the rave sounds bubbling under in the UK and the straightforward guitars blazing in the US. The Wedding Present managed to breakthrough with a similar dirtying of their sound but they also played it for keeps and at a hundred miles an hour. Easy were content to drift along and soak in the distortion of their insanely simple and catchy songs as if a lazy joint were dangling from the headstock of their guitars rather than a burning cigarette racing to the cherry. They were clearly writing songs with hits in their heads (and were the only thing poppy on the noisefest that was Blast First) but it just didn’t translate and they became destined to be a cult band in even their home country.
“Sun Years” brings on a cleaner sound than “Magic Seed” and is even more direct in it’s approach. Big drum snaps and guitar strums greet you at the start of “In Black and White” as they sing in their mildly endearing accent. It’s too polished to be C-86 in its pop hooks, yet not slick enough to be radio ready. You can hear the frustration with the lack of sales and attention in the production touches that they do manage though. “On Top of the Ark” shows off their limited English (which is often a strength in keeping things simple lyrically) and their hook-filled guitar playing. “Don’t Let the Other Hand Know” adds a lot of air to the arrangement (another change from the distortion fuzz that blanketed “Magic Seed”) and gives an offhand lovelorn vocal to compliment the big lead blasts that build and recede again and again. It’s the sound perfected that so many Slumberland bands strived for and Matinee Records built an archive full of.
“Someone’s Mecca” has a little bite to the delivery to go with the off key backing vocals and jangly guitar under the fuzz and snapping snare and Johan Holmlund reminds me of Liam’s early pouts fronting Oasis, but basking in the sunshine just a little longer than the Gallagher brothers. It also shows how the band constantly works within their strengths and doesn’t need to play past their skill level. Instead they play with determination and keep the arrangements tight and buzzing. “Never Seen A Star” plinks a two note piano intro and stares into your eyes behind its blonde fringe. It’s not as effective as their straight ahead efforts and you can almost feel the band putting on the brakes at points until they churn it up for the chorus. “Listen to the Bells” is the only misstep as it bears a heavy Madchester groove which was damn hard to avoid at the time but they don’t make it work for them by any means – and it’s placement on the disc seems to indicate that it was a half-hearted attempt at best.
“Wait and See” misses a little of the grit of the distortion singles from the album prior in its spare musical accompaniment. “Shake A Memory”brings with it a slow drone and a plodding piano, but comes together half way through. “If You Don’t Know” adds slide guitar and organ flourishes and has a directionless melody and you can hear the band rebel against it in the mess of drums that bursts out before being reigned back in with the tepid touches once again. It is frustrating to hear, even all these years on, an extremely talented band at what they do doubting themselves based on bleak commercial prospects. “Sun Years” returns the basic six-string push but could lose a minute and a half of fat (a mistake they never made on “Magic Seed”) and then “Empty Foxhole” mimics the kookiness of Madchester lightweights like The Wendys to end on a hollow note (especially as it is truly a sound effect that brings the record to a close – ugh.)
It truly is a shame that the record-buying public, and in turn the band themselves, couldn’t get behind their glorious bursts of pop noise. I have long cherished “Magic Seed” and I highly recommend seeking it out and plunking down some credits on the first half of the previously impossible to find “Sun Years” to perfectly round it out. The Swedes name check the band as a touchstone to the country’s late 90s guitar pop surge and it’s never too late for the rest of the world to take notice.
RIYL: The Lodger, Revolver, Wannadies, early Oasis