Ever heard of Buffalo Sunn? Maybe not – but after several successful years gigging as Sweet Jane, the band underwent a re-invention late last year. The reemerged Buffalo Sunn, a six-piece “cosmic reverb rock band” had built up a stellar live reputation in their previous outfit. They have appeared on several of RTÉ’s shows as Sweet Jane, so it’s a bold move to go back to square one. One listen to their latest offering tells me that it’s certainly no bad thing.
“By the Ocean, By the Sea” is a so-called debut album that showcases not the wobbles of a starting-up band, but their years of experience. It’s a record full of swagger and energy; the band has perfected the scuzzy, sun-drenched sounds of the West Coast. It’s all swinging guitars, catchy choruses and heartfelt lyrics…it’s a shock to the system to discover that the band hail from our very own Dublin. The six-piece take their music in a new direction, and this direction is a rich myriad of indie-pop, shoegaze and rhythmic, guitar-led rock and roll.
Debut single “Seven Seas” is oddly placed on the album, somewhere in the middle. It’s a sun-kissed guitar anthem, much as I hate to use the term; perfect for lazy summer days, or indeed the memories of them. Many of the songs on the album sound like this ;“Gimme Truth”, in particular, sounds nostalgic for a time and place that may have never existed. The vocals on this track sound almost Oasis-lite, building to a big chorus and never losing the aforementioned West Coast feel. The album rolls on happily in this vein for some time, without veering into formulaic territory. Many comparisons have been made in this review and in others – The Stone Roses, The Beach Boys and Gary Numan to name but a few – but it is ultimately the sound of Buffalo Sunn, uniquely itself.
The band does switch it up from time to time, though. “Witches” is considerably more rock and roll than its laid-back predecessors, tightly wound and intense. Songs like “Let It Go” are a nice change in pace, too. As rock ballads go, it may not rival Aerosmith or Guns’N’Roses, but it’s sweet and delicate, showcasing that Buffalo Sunn are more than just a crew of riff-slinging, happy-go-lucky scamps. Got your lighters ready? ‘Cos you should have.
Buffalo Sunn’s songwriting skills should be applauded – every song on the ten-track album sounds meticulously crafted, and there are no obvious “duds” or “fillers” here. It’s obvious that the production of this album was a big deal. The band worked with Pat McCarthy, a big-name producer who previously worked with REM and The Waterboys, and it has resulted in a fine album, sounding big but not overblown. Keep an eye out for these guys touring this album over the coming months – it’s not a sound you’ll want to miss.