Sunflower Bean are back in the spotlight to represent the New York indie-rock scene with their new punchy pop/rock EP King Of The Dudes.
Throughout their career, Sunflower Bean are a band who have appeared to be struggling with finding a distinct sound. Their debut album Human Ceremony, released back in 2016, tried multiple genre approaches, with tracks going from psychedelic pop straight to metal. A slightly different approach was taken in their second album, Twentytwo In Blue, which carried a more confident soft rock sound, slightly mimicking that of an early Fleetwood Mac. And now in 2019, coming in at four tracks long, new EP King Of The Dudes sees Sunflower Bean take yet another new approach to their music, moving into a more punk rock sound than on their previous work. It’s nice to hear the band experiment and slowly develop their sound. However, something still seems to be missing from the band and, much more importantly, their music.
Opening the EP is the title track ‘King Of The Dudes’. On the first listen it is a bass heavy track with lead singer Julia Cumming chanting about being strong and self-confident. On closer listen, this song has a seemingly subtle underlying theme of needing someone, with the chorus chanting “I’m the King of the Dudes, if you want me to be.” This is a somewhat unnerving line, implying a rather outdated sense of Cummings only being strong and powerful, specifically a “king”, but only if someone else tells her to be. For a band trying to stay ahead of music trends, they have really missed the mark with the lyrics to this song.
The lead single from King Of The Dudes is the track ‘Come For Me’. It’s a pretty punchy pop song, and there’s even a nice guitar solo during the bridge. ‘Come For Me’ seems to be about standing up to someone, with the band boldly claiming that “When I hit, I hit hard”. It’s an empowering song, and there’s an upbeat staccato guitar riff to match this, but this song seems underdeveloped in a way. It starts off bold and then seems to stay there for the entire three minutes and 29 seconds. Sunflower Bean are being courageous on the outside, but the music behind the lyrics still seems scared and unsure of itself. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to hear.
The best track on King Of The Dudes has to be ‘Fear City’. The band takes a much-needed pause and reflection, a seemingly introspective moment. The track is more similar to their older sound but has the underlying punk rock sound that the band has been trying so badly to show off in this new EP. What is different on this song compared to the others on the EP is that it is actually interesting to listen to. The guitar riffs change throughout the song, which is subtle but adds so much more depth to the song.
The heavy punk rock track ‘The Big One’ brings this forgettable EP to a close. At a guess, this track is trying to mock traditional rock ‘n’ roll culture, with Cummings opening the song with the line “bury me in a bed of silk and women” — a line distinctly lacking originality. The band have definitely been the most confident with their sound on this track, and it’s not a bad song, but if they wanted to move into punk rock why didn’t they stick with it for the entirety of the EP? ‘The Big One’ is a good end song to the EP, but it doesn’t really fit with the other three tracks.
Where will Sunflower Bean go from here? Will they turn to punk rock? Or will they run back to their old soft rock sound that pushed them into the global indiesphere in the first place? Sunflower Bean are evidently a bit lost with their sound. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but how can they expect their fans to believe in the music they’re releasing when they don’t seem to believe in it themselves?