Monday, May 23, 2011

The many moods of Sunchunck

My first thought? That the title of Sunchunck's new album had to be an inside joke. You know, "Finally Here" as a follow-up to "L8," the Port power trio's long-promised and  famously slow to arrive second album, which finally dropped in 2007, several months after its official record release party. Same deal with "Finally Here," which had been scheduled for a Spring release, and that would be of last year, but was also late to its own release party, available only as a digital download. The actual physical copy of the album will arrive, well, let's drive spellcheck crazy and say l8er. And, the truth is that the two albums are connected, but not in the obvious way: The title cut of the new album had been conceived of as a bookend, of sorts, to "L8," which, ostensibly, dealt with chronological lateness, a passive-aggressive stance against the world, but also dealt with the concept of psychological availability as its subtext. And "Finally Here" started as a response, as a commitment, a declaration, to be emotionally ready, to be finally, fully here, but a funny thing happened on the way to the recording studio.

The song morphed into something else, exploring a different kind of commitment, something beyond the personal, becoming a sway-in-the-dark-and-sing-and-maybe-even-cry anthem about troops returning home — finally, safely — about, sigh of relief, families being whole again. And, as unexpected as the exegesis of "Finally Here" may have been, the subject matter is familiar ground for Sunchunck, the unapologetically positive power pop trio formed a decade ago by Mike Bertolami, John Catino and Brett Manoloff. The band, which was named top rock act at the 2006 Boston Emergenza music festival, has been down with the troops from the start. The core of its show has been a revved-up rock version of "God Bless America." They've also launched “Help Our Troops — Donations Through Downloads,” donating proceeds from downloads of GBA to charities that support American soldiers.

The new album, available for now only as a digital download on iTunes, follows the form of the band's last release, a bit of an odd bird combining new tunes with rarities, studio banter and alternate takes. "Finally Here" collects four new songs and five new takes on older tunes, a very old school approach, going back to the days when albums were a place to hold singles. It's not meant to be a greatest hits album, not exactly, but it almost has that vibe.

It also has a "Many Moods of Sunchunck" feel to it, in that the tunes bounce between styles. "No Win Fantasy" is an up-tempo stomp, with a shouted chorus designed for pumping fists in the air. "Voodoo on the Brain" is a reggae-flavored tune that, in its current form, has been a part of live shows for a year. What the bleating goat at the beginning of the song is about is anyone's guess. Guest vocals by Stevie Nicks, perhaps?  Have to check those liner notes when the physical CD comes out. "Wait," which probably should have been spelled in the Twitterish, text method, seeing how it rhymes with, and follows a remastered "L8," is a ballad that tells the story about big-screen dreams that are ultimately crushed. "Finally Here" is the emotional core of the album — made even more powerful when viewing the video, which puts the song, lyrics and film of emotional airport reunions of returning soldiers.  

Unless you're a Sunchunckie, as hardcore fans call themselves, you probably will not be able to tell the differences between the new and old versions of the back catalog songs, which have been remixed and remastered, perhaps with the exception of the wistful "Living My Life Again," from the band's 2005 debut, "On the Map" — and which made the “L8” album as a live acoustic take — which has been significantly tightened up, losing the harmonica introduction. “Butterfly” and "L8" are solid, radio-friendly rockers. The album closes with "Summerfall," from “On the Map.”

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: "Finally Here" is available as a digital download on iTunes. For more information, check out the Sunchunck web.

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