Sonny and The Sunsets leader Sonny Smith has worn dozens of different hats in his prolific music career, comfortably crafting tunes in the guise of a hundred different fictitious bands for a single project. Last year he put on a cowboy hat for the heartbroken alt-country set Longtime Companion, and the follow-up finds him donning a space helmet. Ostensibly a concept album about an alien invasion of earth, Antenna To The Afterworld explores the depths of mortality, more romantic troubles, and extreme otherness, all in a synth-drizzled garage pop package.
“And I walk on your streets/ And your streets they walk on me,” Smith moans on “Dark Corners”, new wave synths rounding out the jangling guitar and reedy percussion. All he wants to do is “find a place in your weird world” and “start anew again,” simple hope couched in an effort to push out the title’s ominous edges. But it’s clearly not as easy as all that. “Mutilator” tells the tale of some malevolent yet enticing lady, complete with a Goo-y call-and-response discussion of cannibalism. His out-there beloved in “Green Blood” is just too different to make things work, his request for a “normal love” prompted by the space lady’s cyborg husband shooting her.
Smith’s wit and droll storytelling skew the sci-fi elements more Vonnegut than Heinlein, the extraterrestrial flourishes clearly used to explore essentially human elements rather than push into outer space. On the ingenuously cyclical “Path of Orbit”, an intersection of the lines “all I know is this loneliness” and “my love is back again” follow the path of an orbit, spinning out of the cold darkness and back towards the warmth of the sun. The slow, twirling ballad encapsulates the success of the disc: a combination knowing camp fun, deep-veined emotionalism, and catchy ’60s pop sweetness.
Essential Tracks: “Path of Orbit”, “Dark Corners”