Individuals & Get Some Fun - Sunnyboys (Feel Presents)
It’s time to kiss and make up. When “Individuals” was released back in 1982, as a follow-up to the Sunnyboys’ barnstorming eponymous debut, it was justifiably unloved by many.
The songs were…good…but slower. Its lead-off single, the curious “This Is Real”, was stilted and a million miles removed from the infectious “Happy Man” and “Alone With You”. The biggest drawback, however, was the record’s lifeless production which reduced the sound of the Sunnyboys to an empty husk. It lacked warmth and sounded distant.
This re-issue is mostly Lobby Loyde mix-downs that were lost for years and only found after the man himself passed on. To say they sound different from the previously released, record company-approved, band-disowned mixes is like saying Tony Abbott has a low popularity rating. This re-issue is a stunning aural revelation. It’s like having your ears de-waxed with a syringefull of warm water after six months of partial deafness.
Wind the clock back. Put yourself in the Sunnyboys’ winkle-pickers. From fresh faces on a tiny inner-Sydney scene they’d been catapulted to a position of national profile and non-stop touring. They’d been on Countdown. They’d been dragged across the sticky carpet of every beer barn and RSL in the country that could accommodate their growing and rabid crowds.
The price sticker was still drying on the cover of their first LP but their record company wanted another record. What’s more, it had to be full of hits. So Lobby dragged them off to New Zealand where, it was reasoned, they could record in peace.
Who goes to New Zealand to record? Beats me, but by all accounts the sessions went well. The band, with guest keyboardist Steve Harris who was along for the recordings, even played some shows. Then Lobby took the tapes off to L.A. to mix them. For three months.
Hindsight is great but you didn’t need to be a paid-up Mensa member to know this wasn’t an inspired idea with an anxious band in the background, cut off from hearing the fruits of all this labour. Pointedly, songwriter Jeremy Oxley felt his songs had been “stolen” and wanted to puke when he heard the final mix. The band parted ways with Lobby (who was also their manager) soon after.
You might make a case for “Individuals” being THE re-issue of 2015 so far and you wouldn’t be wrong. The dynamism and unfettered pop-rock power of these songs finally shines through. It sounds sunny and it sounds real - two things you could never say about the original album. The superfluous reprise of “You Need A Friend” has been ditched and lesser considered curiosities like “Colour Of Love” and “Leaf On a Tree” (both of which I'd forgotten about) grow sonically. The songs confirm this was a band looking to expand its creative horizons.
Throw in five songs from a tough-sounding Sydney radio live-to-air and the “rock” single version (as in minus the syndrums and noodling) of “Show Me Some Discipline” and you have a killer release.
1984”s “Get Some Fun” took Sunnyboys in a heavier, darker direction and took a lot of fans by surprise. Recorded in the UK and followed by the usual treadmill touring, it was a musclebound bruiser of a record. There were psychedelic touches (the sparkling “Love ion a Box”), R & B inflected foot stompers (“Comes As No Surprise”) and introspective etchings (“The Stooge”) along with all the usual ’80s production excesses, but it was as good as any rock and roll record released that year.
Once you get past those ‘80s drum sounds, the guitars really had crunch. Jeremy’s vocals are right on the money and the deft playing lives up to the adventurous songwriting.
Of course, Jeremy’s downward spiral by that point is well documented. The band itself had been rubbed raw by incessant travel and the weight of expectations. If you want to hear how great they were, grab the “Live” album or listen to the bonus tracks on this re-issue, recorded at the sodden Narara Festival north of Sydney.
The redux “Get Some Fun” adds lesser-heard but worthy songs like “Bottom of My Heart” and “Safe Life”. There are no surprises but as a package, it holds up brilliantly well.
Both re-issues are teamed with liners base don band member interviews and updated cover art that makes perfect sense. Buy it from the label here.
1/3 - Get Some Fun