CD Review of Dad’s Weird Dream by Silver Sun

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Dad’s Weird Dream
starstarstarstarhalf star Label: Invisible Hands
Released: 2007
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If you’re an American aficionado of British pop, this scenario will no doubt sound all too familiar to you: you read about a fantastic new band from the UK, they release their debut album in the States and you fall head over heels in love with it, and just when you start to get psyched about the follow-up, you hear that the band’s been dumped from its US record label, meaning that you’re stuck paying import prices to keep up with their career.

Man, it sucks when that happens…and, yet, do you know what’s worse? When that fantastic new band from the UK can’t get their debut released in the US in the first place. And, unfortunately, that’s how the story of Silver Sun’s career began.

It’s been a long, hard road for James Broad, who’s fronted the band since its inception in the mid-1990s. They released their self-titled debut in 1997 to considerable acclaim and a very reasonable amount of chart success in both the UK and Japan, barely survived the commercial stumble of the follow-up (1998’s Neo Wave), and pulled it back together in 2005 to re-emerge with Disappear Here. Now fully back on track, Broad and the rest of Silver Sun – Richard Buckner (bass / keyboards), Jason Panudy ne - Orange (drums), and Paul Smith (guitar) – have returned with Dad’s Weird Dream, which manages to rival the aforementioned debut as the best album of the band’s career.

The beauty of Silver Sun’s music is twofold: they know how to write a kick-ass pop song, and, more importantly, they know that brevity is the soul of the genre. Only once do they cross the all-important three-and-a-half-minute mark, instead preferring to hover in the two-minute range whenever possible. They also have a unique sound, with their songs generally being powered by equal amounts of guitar and synth; a track may start off powered by a memorable riff, but there’s soon an equally catchy keyboard line to keep it company. Add in some ridiculously tight harmonies, and, voila, you’ve got the Silver Sun sound.

Dad’s Weird Dream opens with its first single, “Fallen,” and it’s an instant indicator that Silver Sun is back in classic form. Disappear Here was a bit of a disappointment, focusing more on a guitar sound than the aforementioned blend, but this is the sound of a band who’s remembered what made them great. “Sunday Girl” zooms by with similar success, but “Facts of Life” suddenly jumps out of the pack as a contender for a second single, and it’s followed by the equally successful “Find Him and Love Him.” By the time the fifth song, “Hi Scorpia,” rolls around, it’s becoming evident that Silver Sun is on track to produce something which few artists can achieve: an album where just about any song could be a single. They don’t succeed, unfortunately, but it’s a close call; the perfect game falls apart only in the home stretch, with the decision to close with the acoustic guitar noodling of the instrumental title track.

If you’re looking for a clue as to why the band hasn’t managed to find a label in the US, however, it may lie within the lyrics. Not that Broad should change anything solely to get a record deal, but it must be said that when US label reps spot mentions of the QE2 and Heathrow, or catch a reference to someone having “two packets of crisps,” they’re prone to say, “Nope, it’ll never play in the States.” Full-fledged Anglophiles, however, will love lines like “Grow some hair ‘til we look not unlike the Beta Band,” or the brilliant music-geek couplet, “Tried to summon up the spirit of Syd Barrett / But ended up with bloody Hillage and Peter Garrett.”

While Silver Sun continues to battle its inability to get its albums released Stateside, thankfully, the problem now only extends to the physical side of things; after receiving a 2006 release in the UK, Dad’s Weird Dream recently became available for download in the US via eMusic and iTunes. It’s ironic, though, that Americans should finally be able to obtain the band’s music without having to break the bank just as Silver Sun has produced a record that’s worth every penny, no matter what the cost.

~Will Harris