Sunset Valley – Goldbank 78 Stack

Sunset Valley
Goldbank 78 Stack

Sunset Valley, who has been in the music biz for almost a decade, had been quiet as of late. The band’s debut album, The New Speed (1998), showed these players to be a promising, loud pop band capable of injecting real energy into the genre. The lead track, “Sky Lab Love Scene,” alone was almost worth the price of the album. Two more albums followed The New Speed – one in 1999 and one in 2001. Then everything went dark. Sunset, indeed.

What a surprise to find that the band has come back to life. I figured Sunset Valley was just another sad casualty of the industry: well respected and competent, but never able to reach a wide audience. Sunset Valley had been signed to a major at one point, but the collapse of the label meant that fans could only wait and wish for a positive outcome. With Goldbank 78 Stack, Sunset Valley shows that it still has something to say. And instead of riding the wave of 80s-redux sounds with fellow scenesters, these folks have gone back to a sound from the 60s and 70s. It’s not groundbreaking or earth-shattering, to be sure, but it’s also not dismissable by any measure.

Long on vocal harmony (never too sugary) and piled with distorted guitars, Goldbank sounds like a 60s garage band updated for today. The garage-type stylings allow the musicians to get across their energy without being screaming punks in the process, as in such songs as “Blow Up.” The band also throws in some slower, prettier numbers like “Moss” and “Pet Your Head” to keep things interesting. The updates to the 60s sound come mostly in the form of some electronics (such as the short drum-machine passage in “Moss”) and in the quality of the recording.

“Mr. Extreme Jeans” begins with a Hives-like beat before the oddly distorted vocals come in. It’s probably the most experimental track here sound-wise, even though its structure and its rhythm have been done a million times before, right down to the rave up at the end. And speaking of the Hives, “Grubby Cartoon Hands” and “I’m a Bull” pack the same kind of melodic punch as do a lot of Hives’ songs. “Candy Stairs” sounds like a cross between the Velvet Underground and St. Johnny. It’s slow and sort of droney – almost bluesy at times – and its dead simple beat forces your attention to the sustained vocal harmonies and the power-chord guitar.

It’s nice to see that Sunset Valley still has the means and motivation to put out records, as the band was a bright star in the constellation of power-pop bands in the late 90s. Goldbank 78 Stack may not always live up to the promise of the band’s earlier work, but that’s in part because it has taken these guys back to the garage instead of to the arena. Their songs are less urgent and more patient these days, but they’re still a good listen.