NO FUN: Review of the Sunnyboys' album Get Some Fun, from Rolling Stone 1984
The Sunnyboys are a group who had success — or near-success, at least — thrust upon them at an early age, and although it’s to their credit that they’ve refused to be boxed in by expectations of eternal adolescence, the question is: how successfully have they evolved?
To answer that question requires a reassessment of just what the Sunnyboys had to offer in the first place, and what that boils down to is this: Jeremy Oxley had a way with simple words and a simple tune, and the group was able to knock his songs out with the requisite amount of energy. But even though their demeanour was ostensibly tough, essentially they were an easy-going, relaxed kind of group, setting neither themselves nor their audience any task too demanding. If the Sunnyboys were to progress, it would be very much one day at a time. Following their successful debut album, the second LP, Individuals, was a well-intentioned failure. As a taster for Get Some Fun, their third album, the single “Show Me Some Discipline,” a perhaps surprising hit last year, did have a sort of brutish appeal.
The Sunnyboys have submitted to the Big Overseas Production Job syndrome in making Get Some Fun, going to England to record it with non-renowned producer Nick Garvey (late of the singularly dull Motors). Now, I may only be listening to a pre-release tape, but there doesn’t seem to be anything here that Lobby Loyde couldn’t have done.
It is, in fact, a misleadingly-titled album. If the Sunnyboys were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in their youth, Get Some Fun suggests they have grown into sullen young adults. Their growth has most definitely been stunted. But the worst part is that the suspicions you might have had about the intent of “Show Me Some Discipline” are in some ways confirmed --Get Some Fun often approaches the sort of misogyny of, say, the Rolling Stones’ Black and Blue, and that can’t fail to leave a bad taste in your mouth.
But perhaps Get Some Fun’s worst crime is simply that it’s not really very much fun at all — it doesn’t excite, nothing reaches out, it sags under its own weight. There don’t seem to be any new influences at work and this might partially explain the hand’s predicament. The Sunnyboys are a two dimensional group. Drums follow bass follows guitars follows vocals along a narrow, barely wavering line. Sure, some decent melodies rise towards the top, but they’re dragged down again by ham-fisted instrumentation, not to mention harmonies so close as so be unnecessary. This is dense, air-tight music that allows no room to breathe.
I wanted to like this album. I really did. The Sunnyboys have let me down. They have gotten so far off the track I only hope it’s not impossible for them to find their way back.