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Sister Sonny | The Bandit Lab (Rec 90)
A busy year for Sister Sonny, this is their third release this year ?? following two EPs of new material ?? and, as it goes, their third change of musical direction. Without quite ignoring the erratic electro-pop of the Duperbeach EP or the west-coast landscapes that made up The Hot Butter Band, their ambition is much greater this time around, with sounds ranging from infectious big band pastiches to lazy jazzy strummings and lo-fi excursions. Always equal parts Bad Seeds and Depeche Mode, early Sonic Youth and late Talk Talk, this time around they seem to have opened up to Morricone and John Barry ?? and in particular their followers, from Barry Adamson to every late-70s crime series. The focal point is the words and the voice, and lead vocalist Pedro Carmona-Alvarez is in fine form throughout ?? from improbably resembling Conor Oberst on opener Rumba Parumba, to his energetic voicing on Stupid and the Silver Fox (also featuring a splendid guest performance from former Barbie Bones vocalist Yngve Saetre). An immediate favourite is the lovely, slowly pulsating Nothing Amuses the People as a Puppet, with its twisted, melancholic narrative: "This is my final tour of toilets before packing it in." But other highlights abound: The seducing Leonard In Drag, the introspective Thank You, Robert, and the hushed epic Watchman: "Growing up is still sad and strange." The nightmarish Watching a House Burn Down probably sums it up best: "Forget I came with all these names, I never think of them / Besides I'm happy learning to have faith in glitter balls and needle eyes / And does perfect mean we need to show our scars to any stranger asking?" An excellent upswing after their somewhat disappointing previous full-length album While Others Dance, Sister Sonny, then, pointing out a wide-open territory for future experiences in sonic mischief and literary relief. Always refusing to surf on former glories, this album provides Sister Sonny with a solid reference point that shuns repetition, making new explorations their only possible route.

Stein Haukland
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002