Review: Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam’s Part Deux
December 14, 2015
After four years of consistent gigging and releases, Birmingham quartet Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam are unleashing their third album. The incongruously named Part Deux, available for purchase on bandcamp from December 23rd 2015, arrives in the wake of recent highlight shows at Die Das Der’s Yr Welcome mini festival back in August, and with Metz at This Is Tmrw‘s Halloween show.
With best foot forward, opening salvo Paradise Telephone brings SFL’s strengths to the fore: weighty, inventive centrepiece riffs, considered guitar effects and utilitarian rhythms. Scratchy, overdriven vocals proclaim ‘Your boyfriend is a dick but he earns good wedge’ – the snarky comeback of snubbed romance or just a muttered warning. A lack of pretence in the lyrical content is to be applauded, as the tracks remain anchored to the here and now.
Just shy of an onslaught, the pummel of Real Romantix continues the shout-along ‘This night gets more intense‘ as perhaps our speaker struggles to find his house keys five pints in. Closed Casket’s dank scuzz opens the throttle just a little wider as the vocals cut loose into the guitar squall cementing the vibe and timbre of the album.
Moving into the middle third of a thirty minute record, Results, Beauty and Neighbours present a sludgy collage of under-developed ideas and structures perhaps hampered by the mid-tempo commonality of these tracks. The driving indie rock constancy, just shy of monotonous, reinforces a laid back aesthetic but may leave some listeners cold. Things pick up again with another barnstormer riff in New Womb and the pleasing descending chord swing of Ghosts bringing the album to a fitting denouement with the dreamy, lilting Zone as a stripped-down afterthought. Is this the soundtrack to the morning commute as a begrudgingly productive member of society?
A well-worn trail of production techniques and stylistic influences colour the textures of Part Deux. Three guitars generate a peaking sound, recalling Wavves circa King of the Beach, and the churning riffery of No Age. The lo-fi conceit of analogue (however approximated) production and vintage fuzz is in full force here, suitably on trend and closely referencing a range of indie contemporaries. In an age of Garage Band and Logic bedroom production, the deliberate intent apparent in the production style hints at a seriousness which belies the casual visual trappings and relaxed aesthetic language of the band. Achieving this lo-fi sound can be deceptively expensive and time-consuming, somewhat ironic when compared to late 80s early 90s bands recording onto tape as an economical medium.
The slacker aesthetic worn on the sleeve of this record, or rather attached to the coat-tails of the B-Town “scene”, washes out after a few listens. At its core this is boozy masculine rock, a far cry from the dream/beach/wave/gaze genreisms the music press have enthusiastically highlighted amongst Birmingham’s musical exports in the last seven or so years. The cognitive dissonance of coastal music coming from a landlocked industrial town is a zero-sum game in which authenticity and integrity are at stake in courting national attention. SFL are practicing their balancing act here, but the organic hallmarks of the Birmingham gig scene (Blakfish, Them Wolves, Shapes, God Damn) shine through the often overwhelming reverbs. These are songs born of hours of sweaty toil in a lock-up on miserable Tuesday evenings, designed to energise a sullen Midlands crowd, and honed on cramped stages. Trying to carry this effort off with an affected shrug won’t fool anyone: the passion and earnest fun of the outfit should be celebrated.
Crucially, the album functions admirably as a taster for a live set which has earned its reputation in the Birmingham scene. The potential energy in a live translation of these songs is readily apparent to the listener. With Part Deux, it’s tempting to say Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam have ‘arrived’, but there’s still some unrealised potential here. Superior production, experimentation and touring experience could hone this into a more singular product and experience. Ultimately, if the band strive to differentiate themselves fully from the competition, they must find the kernel of musicality that makes them unique. Watching them get there should be riveting.
Part Deux is released on December 23rd with an album launch party at The Hare & Hounds in King’s Heath. For more on Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam’s live performances click here.