Release Date: February 2013
First off, I will admit to being an unabashed fan. In hindsight I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since I first heard the original set of demos by Sgt. Sunshine (maybe as there have been only 3 albums in that time). An old Stonerrock.com cohort directed my attention to the band knowing of my mutual love for the archetypal ‘desert’ warm fuzz tones. Absolutely blew me away. In total spite of their ‘demo’ stage, there was a real magic happening, a lightning-in-a-bottle captured. In 2003 the Abstract Sounds label had the good sense to release their first record. The righteousness of the so-deep-you’d-trip-over-them grooves, changes from groove to groove, the subtle but unique harmonies, vocals more like a compliment than a showcase, mixed further back generally, the tasteful walking bass lines, and warmth in the tones that lasted forever. Sure the comparison to Kyuss was expected, but somehow in that, Sgt. Sunshine had made something their own. For me, “tasteful” was an operative word on that self-titled album. Tasteful percussion, bass, guitars, they really had it all. Each song was just one homerun after another. I never heard from, or of, anyone who didn’t like that record.
Which is why expectation was so, perhaps unreasonably, high for their second album, 2007’s Black Hole. I won’t bore with the biography here (though for me would be a fun endeavor), but needless to say many fans responded ‘unfavorably’ to Black Hole. Cuban ex-pat Eduardo Fernandez R. is the primary songwriter for the band, and obviously was exploring a different animal, playing with different musicians, for his second outing. As I understand, the project came extremely close to being called Black Hole. Such was the contrast between Self-Titled and Black Hole. So looking at the record as a separate entity, through this lens, avoiding comparison, is advocated. Because those who dismiss Black Hole outright do themselves a disservice. Have a few more good listens… At times Kraut-Rock, others a bit avant-garde, there is still magic from that weird and wonderful mind of Eduardo. ‘Music Sweet Master’ launches into a sustained groove later in the song. The whole middle part of the album including ‘Overload’, ‘Sun Tree’, ‘Monte Azul’, ‘Go Out Fishing’, and ‘Mar Borrascosa’ is really good. Delicate harmony, hypnotic melancholy, classic-cut grooves are all to be found in those songs. ‘Mar Borrascosa’ is pure genius, worth the album alone if I had to boil it down. Eduardo’s amazing playing and ear for subtlety and ‘groove’ (sorry for the repetition, hard to avoid the word with this band) shine here…
The strange dearth of anything online about this band only threw fuel on the fire. No official website (a minor one, no longer up), no fan coverage, seemingly modest playing out live, no real touring in Europe, and sadly ZERO concert captures on audio or video (I tend to love that sort of thing, maybe more than most, so that did bum me out). Even the recently-up Facebook page is fairly sparse, minimal in content and information. It is a sidebar to the review, but this gave the impression that self-promotion, getting the word out, publicizing the music, was never terribly important to the band. And largely why not nearly enough people know who Sgt. Sunshine is, and I really hope for that to change. But it’s aided by the fact you can’t find that first album anymore. Their label went under and Elektrohasch’s vinyl re-release sold-out ages ago.
Five long years after Black Hole, we are at last, finally, thank you, treated to the new album III. It bears stressing that the charisma and power of III is, in good part, because the band line-up is once again the same as the first album. Swedes Christian Lundberg on drums, Par Hallgren on bass. "Kricke" (as he's called) and Par are the ideal rhythm section, alternately locked-in, then expanding and unrestrained. One of the tunes, ‘In-Thru-Mental’, actually dates back to the second round of demos leading up to the self-titled album. Thus it has original drummer Martin Johan Zaar on the kit. Bassist from Black Hole Michael Mino makes a guest appearance on one song, ‘When I Was A Dog’. ‘Beneath The Song’ made a brief appearance in demo form online in 2007, here it has fully blossomed. But if you loved the tones from the first record, they are molasses-thick on III. Back in spades are the hard grooves (to borrow the perfect adjective I read recently), “that junky sound” they’re so good at, the 60’s psychedelia, and a comparison to Colour Haze’s aesthetics, deliciousness, and crunchy taste is not far from the mark. Apparently the band makes their own fuzz pedals even... It’s immediate, and it’s a grower. Do yourself the favor. Very strongly recommended…