Review Summary: Another notch in Sunwatchers’ bedazzled leather belt.
Of the few modern acts I follow, New York’s Sunwatchers is definitely one of the more unique. Not only in sound, but in attitude. The band plays psychedelic rock with a twist of avant-garde jazz and noise rock; it’s not necessarily a new sound, but it is certainly unique enough to help distinguish themselves from the pack. On top of that, they are also very “punk-minded” shall we say. Taking the term “progressive rock” to seemingly new extremes, the group doesn’t seem shy about inserting their politics into their work. Just a look at the cover for their last album (2019’s Illegal Moves) and you’ll get what I mean.
Why even bother saying this? Well, it’s practically been their identity for their entire career. For example, sales from this (and all their other albums) go to the fight against state incarceration. Their chaotic sound, blends of guitar and bleating saxophone, seem to be an insight into their worldview. Opening track “Sunwatchers vs. Tooth Decay” is as clear a mission statement a band like Sunwatchers could possibly have, while remaining entirely instrumental: a progressive jazz-rock bruiser with the energy to make the 7-minute runtime fly right on by.
If you’re at all familiar with the group, it will become clear that while this does continue in the tradition of their previous work, it is a lot more digestible. And that’s including the nearly-20 minute long closer, “The Earthsized Thumb”. While the band had always been more psychedelic rock than avant, the latter seems all but absent. Oh Yeah? is a bit more cohesive than their past work, but that same energy holds it together. Even if the album’s A-side is stronger than the B-side; there’s never really a dull moment. For a modern band, that’s an impressive feat.
Sunwatchers are a group that rose from the ashes of an (otherwise) defunct music collective, and 5 years + 4 albums later, they still manage to sound chaotic and distinct. Whether it be due to their sound or their politics, let’s hope these Sunwatchers don’t turn their gaze away too soon.