Sunnyboys - Sunnyboys (Festival)
Without resorting to hyperbole, the definitive version of the debut album for Sydney’s esteemed Sunnyboys sounds fresher than the day it came out. The original 12 songs are coupled with seven early B-sides and live cuts but the revelation is in the bonus disc of 17 sparkling demo tracks, many of them previously unissued.
The album proper has been given a sonic spruce-up by Rick O’Neil but the songs would have stood up for themselves regardless. It’s great guitar pop, chockfull of power and blessed by Jeremy Oxley’s killer vocal and individualistic, tightly-coiled lead breaks. Timeless now, and perfectly timed at the point of release, onto an Australian music scene that was high-energy sounds.
This was the first album I’d ever been sent as a callow reviewer on a Sydney suburban newspaper. A few of my mates disliked the band but I was a fan already - in spite of people like early champion and Sunday paper journalist, Stuart Coupe, claiming these brash, young Sunnyboys had stepped into Radio Birdman’s vacant shoes. That claim rankled me at the time. He was probably correct in the live sense - although the songs were of an different bent to those rolled out by Tek and Co. It only came to light years later that Rob Younger sang in the nascent line-up of the Sunnyboys, only to step aside after a couple of rehearsals and leave the job to Jeremy.
If you’re a fan already it’s the bonus tracks you’ll be interested in. Demo tracks are often an exercise in pointlessness. There’s usually a reason for recording them - as a sketch of what’s going to happen in a studio, as a guide for a producer or to attract the attention of a record company - but there’s also a reason for them to stay in the cupboard. The subsequent album usually sounds better.
In this instance, Sunnyboys were already signed to Mushroom. They were carving it up in Sydney’s live hotbed of pubs and clubs. There are a whopping 24 extra tracks to be had on this double CD set. You’ve probably heard the live ones and B sides (certainly if you’ve bought the Feelpresents disc previously available.) Bottom line is these demo tracks are not only great to have - they’re damn near essential. They show precisely why the following album was going to be a success.
The songs were recorded in a day, almost entirely as live first takes, and shows a band that’s fully-formed with songs aplenty. It’s not such a stretch from these tracks to what was realised in the studio with producer Lobby Loyde a few months later. The recording spanned a few intermittent months but the recording was largely massaged rather than pummelled into place. A few keyboards trimmings, some prominent backing vocals over-dubbed. Coax the best performances. All done.
“New Kicks” is one of the unheard songs and it is a revelation. “Thrill” genuinely coveys one. The hits, “Happy M<an” and “Alone With You”, are as they were when rendered live. “Want To Be Alone” is another unknown track that could have slotted onto either of the next two albums. “Individuals” made to the second (flawed) LP. The raw version of "I Can't Talk To You" eclipses the released. "Don't Want You" co0uld have been a single.
So here’s the rub: If you’re from overseas or too young to have been around at the time, this is a no-risk purchase. If you’re a fan, complete your life and procure it. It's not rocket science and some things in life are just fucking obvious.