Local Love: A Sundae Drive
Leon casino, Photo: Artist
The sophomore slump isn’t just a term that gets thrown around the record industry, it’s an actual thing that can happen when a band enters a studio for album number two. So many times, the band that enters the studio by the second album is vastly different than the one who entered on the first time. Sometimes, that difference can be deafening; where the band produces something so different that it doesn’t fit the audience..in a bad way. When I heard that Houston’s A Sundae Drive had recorded a new album, I was curious as to what would come forth. Their original album, 2011’s “You’re Gonna’ Get Me” sounded like an emo pop explosion. It reminded me of Christie Front Drive mixed with the pop hooks of Jets To Brazil. However, when their new album, “The Senseless and the Sound” dropped last week, what came forward was a different sound entirely; in the good way. What comes out is a band who still has influences from the past, while masking them within a sound that’s all their own.
When the album was sent to me, a rep from Sinkhole Texas, the label releasing the album; said, “It’s not as sunny as the last one.” Which, on it’s face, is true. The album however has these great pop elements that seep in and out on pretty much every track. The opener, “T-Shirt of the Year,” is one such song. The track has a quieter opening before launching into something that’s a mix of early Superchunk and Ramones. The song has a pretty jammy pace with drums from Mike Medina that sound like they were mixed by a proper drum tech. The production on the album from Mike BBQ at Big Door Studios really shines, especially on the opening song; and it’s the kind of start where you’re glad that it was recorded in a proper studio. The band then dives into the poppy and melodic sound of “Here,” the second track. This song has this great backing vocal track on the chorus that keeps you listening, coupled with a muddled and fuzzy guitar; that makes it feel like a home run in its’ execution. It definitely has this old school Sonic Youth feel to how the song is performed, with both Sergio and Zeek adding those fuzzed guitars complete with “Daydream Nation” era feedback. This is followed by the slow to get going sound of “Laissez Tomber.” The song, sung by bassist Jennifer Gray-Garcia has the opening pace of a song by Brit band Lush before picking up the pace and heading in a more speedy direction. The track which is filled with snappy drums and lots of distorted guitar, speeds up in the end and even adds a hook filled guitar track. The fourth song, “Until We Fall” has the feeling of Promise Ring, but with dual vocals and a sing song kind of rhythm that has a more Jawbreaker feel than anything else. The back and forth between Sergio and Jennifer on the vocals is only overshadowed by the sweet lyrical content of the track and the intermittent hooks that sway in and out as the song moves along.
The band segues into two heavy in weight styled songs with the deeply lush sounds of “Vague Like A Fever,” and the layered but slower paced “Hard Candy,” which has a bit of a Mineral feel, before coming back to the quicker melodies of “Covet Lounge.” On it, the band shines as they intertwine a quickly tracked guitar and a more accessible rhythm. There are moments where the two guitars are working independently of the song, but in a positive way. That’s before mentioning the synths provided by Steven Higgenbotham and Craig Wilkens of The Wheel Workers. They keep it familiar on the following song, “Intensive Porpoises” where the band keeps up the quick and pop fueled sound they’ve seemed to perfect. The beauty of this track, is that you hear about twenty different bands in the varying sounds, while they keep it as their own sound. My favorite song of the album, the tenth song “Ten Night Us” has such an amazingly simple but hook filled sound. The track opens with almost a minute without any vocals before they strip the song of the heavy handed guitar sounds that started it. The pop rock craftsmanship here is too hard to ignore, where all of the elements of A Sundae Drive come together on this one track, and deliver an almost ‘feel good song of the year’ type of track. The band goes in the opposite direction of the rest of the album on the 11th song, the piano based “Where You’ve Never Been.” It’s not a far stretch, as all of the pop factors are present, just not as a guitar driven sound as the previous tracks. They close the album in the same manner, though the final song, “Reconjugated” has more of a Beatles’ “White Album” vibe.
When it’s done, you should immediately have your favorites; but none of the songs fall under the guise of “slump.” In many ways, A Sundae Drive achieves what many bands have a difficult time with, which is to grow while keeping their core sound intact. All of the elements from their previous album are present here, just performed in a more growth oriented way. The band moves forward without compromise, and delivers a solid and catchy album with more depth than much of what other bands in their genre typically release. From start to finish you’ll hear nuggets of other bands intertwined with so many layers that you have a hard time believing that this band hasn’t made the big time yet. If more acts approached their sophomore releases with the kind of pop hooked precision mixed with deep emotions that this album has; the industry would quickly kill the terminology of the sophomore slump. Because after hearing “The Senseless and the Sound,” it feels like A Sundae Drive is just getting started.