The Sonics: This Is the Sonics

Photo: Merri Sutton

The first new studio album since 1967 from these garage rock legends has its faults, but it's an overall solid addition to their already classic discography.

The Sonics

This Is The Sonics

Label: Revox Records
US Release Date: 2015-03-31
UK Release Date: 2015-03-31
Artist website

Maybe they were tired of hearing thousands of bands, from the Black Lips to the Black Keys, rip off their classic garage rock sound. That has to be one of the reasons why the Sonics have decided to release their first new studio album since 1967’s Introducing the Sonics. Yes, 1967 -- that’s a long time ago.

The good news is that this isn’t some Black Flag or Misfits situation, where maybe one original guy is present amongst a bunch of stand-ins. This Is the Sonics reunites three of the band’s original members: guitarist Larry Parypa, sax player Rob Lind, and vocalist and keyboard player Jerry Roslie, who defined the Sonics’ sound with his trademark howl. Holding down the rhythm section is Kingsmen bassist Freddie Dennis and Dick Dale drummer Dusty Watson.

This Is the Sonics plays out like the other three Sonics records: a gassed-up mixture of originals and rhythm and blues standards. Similarly, the band’s sound hasn’t changed much in the past 48 years. They can still effortlessly meld swinging rock 'n' roll with a raw, punk-like intensity. While Roslie’s vocals are slightly worse for wear, he can still deliver a mean garage rock growl.

The record’s first single, “Bad Betty”, is an original, and it definitely checks all the boxes you’d want in a Sonics song released in 2015. It kicks off with a rough, bluesy riff that’s subtly backed by sax and organ with Roslie’s wail leading the way. What about a quick sax and organ trade-off solo? You got it. “Bad Betty” works so well because it’s fun, and, honestly, it ranks among the best Sonics originals, like “The Witch” and “Strychnine”.

A few others nearly reach the level of “Bad Betty”. The twangy opening riff of “I Don’t Need No Doctor”, a tune first recorded by Ray Charles back in 1966, gives way to an old-school boogie, and the sizzling blues of “Sugaree” is delightfully vintage. The band even tries on the Motown standard “Leaving Here” and shakes it up in a good way with the addition of a punchy harmonica solo.

There are a couple of missteps, however, including the repetitive verse section of “Livin’ In Chaos”, which tires quite quickly. Then there’s “Save The Planet”, which features a refrain of, “We’ve got to save the planet! It’s the only one with beer!”, which is maybe a little too Dad-rock, or even Grandpa-rock, for its own good.

Another minor quibble with the album is the production. It’s important to clarify, though, that the record, which was recorded in mono, does sound good. For any other band, it might even sound ideal, but for the Sonics, it’s simply too clean. What made the Sonics’ early records so good was their unprocessed rawness. The drum sound on their 1966 LP, Boom, is unmatched to this day. It would have been great if the band tried to replicate their old recording methods for This Is the Sonics. Although the finished result on this LP is listenable, it’s definitely the most polished offering in the Sonics’ discography.

Still, This Is the Sonics is a fine and often fun record. There’s a certain gratification that comes from the record’s straightforward simplicity. But maybe more importantly, the Sonics once again prove that the rumors of rock 'n' roll’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Splash image of the Sonics by Merri Sutton.





The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.