The Sun Machine certainly has its musical reference points down pat.
On its evocative Turn On to Evil LP, which was released two days ago through Electric Church, the Austin “third-coast” quintet sounds like a band possessed by the sometimes-raw, lo-fi haziness of 60s garage-psych. And, on the LP’s 10 songs, they prove themselves mighty purveyors – as well as, one would assume, avid consumers – of the medium.
All the period details are here. There are the shards of electric guitar, planted somewhere between the clean tones of 50s doo-wop and the distorted crunch of 70s arena rock; the flighty bass patterns, soliciting with blues scales as much as traditional rhythm-n-blues/early rock pitter-patter; the pumping of what sounds like a Farfisa; the honey-warm backing melodies accenting the more traditional (and often subdued) leading man. Like I said, these guys have their details down.
But is it any good? Well, yeah. The record opens with the doo-wop ballad “I Want To Drugs (With You)” and pretty much soars, appropriately high as a kite, from there. Tracks like “The Spell” and “The Wasp” call to mind The Zombies, where others reference The Doors (“Is This The End Again?”) Sometimes, singer/guitarist Nathanael Rendon sounds like Tommy James. At other times, his delivery could front Question Mark and The Mysterians. Rarely does The Sun Machine reach for a reference point it doesn’t capture to a T.
After listening to the record, it’s not any more clear why The Sun Machine is so hyper-focused on recreating a distant musical trope – but it, also, almost seems entirely beside the point. While the lyrics sound more contemporary (there are, from what I can tell, more than a few mentions of the life of a music scene’s underbelly), the sound is steeped in the 1960s. And, if that’s good enough for you, it’s good enough for them, too. The 13th Floor fans out there, when they’re not dropping sheets of acid, will eat this stuff up.