California punk rock label, Gold Standard Laboratories have been digging in the vaults of late. Arab on Radar, Soiled Doves, and now Sunshine have all found past releases to freshly pressed by the mostly avant and experimental music label. Hailing from the Czech Republic, Sunshine are still largely unknown on this side of the pond despite touring with the likes of such luminaries as At the Drive-In, the Locust, and the [International] Noise Conspiracy. The Czech-based Day After Records has handled the band’s releases for Europe, while various labels have handled their albums in the United States.
In mid-2001, the group issued Necromance in Europe and now, more than two years later, it is finally getting its first domestic release in the United States. Featuring the original ten track release, Gold Standard Laboratories has added the previously vinyl-only Sunshine release, Astral Love Remixes EP.
It’s hard to accurately describe Sunshine’s sound. Combining the futuristic retro rock of Trans Am, the gothic drama of the Cure, and the epic scope of Three Mile Pilot, Sunshine have crafted an instantly catchy brand of indie rock all their own. Swirling keyboards, walls of guitar, and haunted vocals pour out of the stereo speakers, alternately desperate, passionate, and always persistent.
Even when you think you have the band pegged, they’ll throw you for a loop. Opening track “Insomnia” races red-eyed through a modern metropolis before the latter third of the song suddenly throws in a positively ‘80s guitar line that will have you dancing, before you hurling you right back into a nervous rock ‘n’ roll finale. “Narcoleptic Feedback” almost cops the opening of Trans Am’s Futureworld, before offering up a clichéd punk rock line which Sunshine quickly appropriates for their own devices.
It’s almost unbelievable how varied Sunshine’s influences are. “Punk and Chic” sweats out blues drenched guitars that would impress the likes of the Jon Spencer; “Thru Magnetic Fields” finds the chorus soaked in Kraftwerk-influenced vocoder vocals and “The Spooky Cat Song” (awful title) conjures up the jangly darkness of the Cure. Despite the wide reaching influences, Sunshine manage to condense them into one cohesive, addictive sound.
The weakest moments on this disc are actually found in the bonus material. The original ten track album of Necromance is a near perfect realized vision. The Astral Love Remixes however, aren’t that exciting and it doesn’t particularly help that the source song isn’t that great. An ‘80s throwback that recalls New Order or Men without Hats, “Astral Love” is the kind of song that non-irony ironists Fischerspooner would release. Completely calculated, it lacks the visceral energy that Sunshine displays so well on Necromance. With a runtime over seven minutes, “Astral Love” is an overlong and dull exploration into ‘80s synth pop. The accompanying remixes are equally uninspired. Indie rock remixes are rarely ever interesting, and rarer still do they offer a unique interpretation of the source song and that is true here. Like the soundtrack to a bad “techno-thriller”, the remixes offer stale beats and pale interpretations of an already weak source track.
With dance punk having swept through North American indie rock audiences, carried by the likes of !!!, Outhud, the Faint, and the Rapture, it is almost rare to see a new band emerge without a sassy keyboard player as part of their membership. Unlike their North American counterparts, Sunshine add much more to the mix of their dance infused indie rock. Rather than keeping their feet firmly entrenched in the ‘80s, Sunshine take their cues from the blues, classic rock, glam, goth, and punk, throw it all pot, and sit on the lid until it comes bubbling out. White belted dance punks looking for a new sound to shake their hips to need to look no further than Necromance to get their groove on.