Indie seems to be the road to take for bands looking for big time success. Post-Arctic Monkeys, it’s a genre that seems to produce more ‘stars’ (for better or for worse) than any other, with the vast majority being thrust into the mainstream. Catfish And The Bottlemen are a prime example of this – a critically acclaimed debut album, a tight grasp on radio airplay and, in Van McCann, a frontman with the sort of larger-than-life persona that’s highly sought after. Keeping that in mind, Sunset Sons’ Very Rarely Say Die is the epitome of a 2010s indie debut – bloated, self-important but with flashes of real greatness.
Despite having members from both the UK and Australia, Sunset Sons’ sound seems to gravitate more towards the indie-pleasing redneck-rock of Aha Shake Heartbreak-era Kings Of Leon. At their best, Sunset Sons would probably give the Nashville quartet a run for their money on Very Rarely Say Die as well, as there are some really solid songs on this album. The slick guitar line and sandy drumbeat of Tick Tock makes for an early album highlight, while September Song coasts by on a lush, layered chorus and washed-out instrumentation, and She Wants uses a light piano line and fluid guitar to make a really great track (save for a disappointingly tinny guitar solo).
The other main point that Very Rarely Say Die gets very right is in its consistency in production. It’s very laidback and lazy throughout, but in the best possible way; guitars jangle along, light piano lines are drizzled over most of the album and muted, dusty drums sizzle away in the background for a quintessentially summery sound. Sunset Sons are very likeable in the way they present themselves, and that seeps through in most of the material on offer here.
However, there’s a very thin line between a consciously easy-going sound and a bland one, and when Sunset Sons cross over into the latter, it’s easy to spot. There’s just something about some of this album that feels a lot less interesting than the rest, and it does unfortunately drag it down. Gold and Somewhere Maybe feel too one-paced and placid to live up to the album’s highest points, and Lost Company is too twee and pompous to seamlessly fit with the flow of the album. It’s in this respect that Very Rarely Say Die really feels like a debut album – it sees Sunset Sons with clear goals of what they want to achieve, and while they do their best to hit them, they aim too wide and ultimately miss a number of them. And for an album with thirteen tracks, there are too many misses, causing it to drag.
It’s too passive and has too many forgettable moments to be a truly great album, and an overpopulation of bland tracks is ultimately what drags Very Rarely Say Die down. But while this may be the case, there are some moments of real strength and a sound that really works for them throughout, features that if Sunset Sons can capitalise on in the future, should take them far. For now though, they’ve got a solid debut and a whole load of promise under their belts, and that’s something they can definitely be happy about.
For fans of: Kings Of Leon, Circa Waves, Eliza And The Bear
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Very Rarely Say Die’ by Sunset Sons is out now.