Image courtesy of Mom & Pop 2019
“King of the Dudes” is the latest four song EP from New York City based rock band Sunflower Bean. The album was released on Jan. 25 with a runtime of roughly 20 minutes. The band departs from their clean and glossy sound for a fast-paced, nostalgic rock record and, unfortunately leaves much to be desired.
Vocalist and bass player Julia Cumming, guitarist Nick Kilven and drummer Jacob Faber started out as a group of friends who formed the band in 2013.
In 2015, the trio released their debut album “Human Ceremony” which showed the band taking a more relaxed approach to its previously psychedelic sound, exploring introspective themes like isolation and loneliness.
Their second album, “Twentytwo in Blue” was released in 2018, and showed the band honing its sound into more refined and sophisticated ballads that had all the charm of iconic folk rock classics made popular by the likes of Fleetwood Mac.
It struck a good middle ground between their abrasive early material and their glistening first album, and indicated how much they had grown as songwriters.
“King Of The Dudes” shows the band making a somewhat disappointing effort to recreate an album inspired by the days when ‘80s airwaves were ruled by pop-rock icons like Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Heart and the Pretenders.
The album begins with a song of the same name “King of the Dudes.” It’s a swaggering glam rock song that features lead singer Julia Cumming exchanging her eloquent vocal delivery for a more aggressive and braggadocious voice. The lyrics explain how the band doesn’t fit the rock band caricature that comes to mind for most people, and they don’t want to.
Despite being a decent listen, it leaves us transitioning into the next song feeling somewhat underwhelmed by what we just heard and anticipating things will pick up.
“Come for Me” is the second track and the lead single released to hype up the record. In an interview with NME, the band members reflect on how they wanted to write a nostalgic indie song about female self-liberation and strength in a rock culture prominently ruled by men.
Yet, by the end of the song it wasn’t clear that was their intention at all. The chorus is tiresome and the groove feels artificial.
A better moment on the album is “Fear City.” This track demonstrates the band playing a kind of bittersweet song about leaving home. Musically and vocally performing with more diversity, Cumming serenades the audience about leaving behind a place she used to call home, but has came to realize she needed to get away to grow as a person.
The closing number is “The Big One.” An energetic bop, where the band is firing on all cylinders. Monotonous down-strokes and frantic drums echo the sound of the Ramones and doesn’t care about being perfectly performed.
The song reaches a climax and Cumming ends the song with an anguished scream and just as the song is about to crescendo again, the album finally ends.
This album has a few glaring issues despite the efforts of the band to experiment with their sound.
Sunflower Bean doesn’t play on their strengths, and while it’s good to hear them explore uncharted territory, their songs don’t have the same quality of tenderness that made them so lovable at first.
Also, while the album is definitely enjoyable, it’s clear the group could only create so many songs that incorporated the interesting ideas they had going into it.
Sunflower Bean is still one of the most promising young rock bands around today, however, it doesn’t change the fact that this EP is far from the group’s best work.