The Sadies spent a long time on a short record, throwing all their styles into it, and it's paid off.
The Sadies have been their own band, seemingly everyone else's band, and an almost limitlessly flexible band. They've been at their best when seamlessly blending genres, but they've been a treat when playing in more focused styles, such as on the tossed off Tales of the Rat Fink. Otherwise, the band has blended country, folk, rock, surf, garage, rockabilly, psychedelia, punk, and pretty much anything else they could grab for their distinctive sound. Starting at least a decade ago, the group began making their music more atmospheric, a change that worked well with their charged playing and led to some of their most impressive work. Now they've spent a long time on a short record, throwing all these styles into it, and it's paid off.
Internal Sounds has been a few years coming, and the record was recorded at a deliberate pace, but the Sadies (produced for the first time by member Dallas Good) haven't lost the energy of their quicker recordings. The album does reveal their wide influences across tracks rather than within them. For a band not as tight, that could have made for a scattershot album, but this one coheres nicely.
Opener “The First 5 Minutes” (which includes a bonus 11 seconds, in case you have your stopwatch out) opens with some classic garage riffing -- and some tones that wouldn't be out of place on a Nuggets collection. Coupled with the suggestion to “burn down the orchards and slaughter the flock," the guitars might be suggesting a more aggressive Sadies than we've seen in a while, but it's a bit misleading, even if the delivery of “cross your heart and hope to die” keeps things dark.
The following track slows things down considerably. “So Much Blood” is about as close as a Band tribute track as you'll get from these guys (except maybe their performance of “Evangeline” with Garth Hudson from In Concert Volume One). The Sadies have nailed the midtempo mandolin cut (led by Travis Good), and if you spin around in a circle for 30 seconds before playing, you'll hallucinate Levon Helm singing.
That song and others take some vocal harmony cues from Gary Louris. The Jayhawks are a nice reference point for the twangier side of the Sadies, and Louris helped with these vocals. Not surprisingly, it's a nice touch.
Otherwise, the album's not nearly so specifically referential, even if you might catch a glimpse of, say, The Byrds or someone here and there. The band's comfortable without being predictable, which is what happens when good musicians just play good songs. “Another Tomorrow Again” is an old-fashioned rave-up. “Starting All Over Again” fits closer with contemporary country rock (and might be the Sadiest song on here, with creative parts for all the musicians, including some noteworthy drumming).
If you think you know where they're headed, though, you can forget. These guys, after all, are kind of weird, a characteristic that extends to the album cover (a distorted x-ray) and the title (a reference to Dallas Good hearing his leg break). So for closer “We Are Circling”, the band backs Buffy Sainte-Marie for an abrupt switch into a heavy drone, psych track. Even without the sitar, the band pulls it off, possibly because for the Sadies, nothing could be more like themselves than doing something different with someone else.