The garage rock revival is pretty ubiquitous. That nostalgia well runs deep. Seemingly every week another young band comes out of nowhere to release a solid album of fiery, fun riffage and lyrical content of questionable strength. Without knowing any of the back story, one listen to This Is the Sonics would suggest that it falls right into line with that movement. Nothing on the album indicates that these are in fact guys eligible for AARP releasing their first album of new music since 1967. That The Sonics sound as vibrant as they do is a remarkable feat, especially considering how similar this album sounds to your average garage rock record released by musicians 40 or 50 years younger.
The Tacoma quintet is often cited as one of the earliest punk forebears, and has been noted as a major influence by acts like the White Stripes and Eagles of Death Metal. But though they’ve reformed in various states of being since 2007, the fact that they haven’t put out new music in nearly 50 years has relegated them to the role of “your favorite band’s favorite band” for many.
Though the title announces some sort of definitive state, This Is the Sonics features only three of five members of the band’s classic lineup: vocalist/organist Gerry Roslie, guitarist Larry Parypa, and saxophonist Rob Lind. For a band dating back to the ’60s, that’s not a bad ratio. Their age isn’t evident in the songs, either; there’d be an easy joke to be made at the expense of a song called “I Don’t Need No Doctor” if the quintet didn’t so thoroughly roar through it. Later, “Save the Planet” insists that we need to save Earth because it’s the only planet that serves beer, and the rhythm pulses with a spacy bar room rumble to match.
They keep up with the kids so convincingly, though, that The Sonics fall into the exact same traps. While the lyrics largely aim for cheeky goofballery, they occasionally flounder in eyeroll territory. From “Be a Woman”: “You make me feel like a man/ I gets as much as I can/ I do not break in your hand.” Later, on “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover”, Roslie grins, “You can’t judge sugar by looking at the cane/ You can’t judge a woman by looking at her man.” The song is a Bo Diddley cover, but it’s indicative of Roslie’s simple, sing-songy rhyme choices and winking delivery.
While this isn’t a genre designed for poetry, there are some distracting clunkers amidst the fun. But thankfully, that “Be a Woman” dud is followed by a stone-cold guitar solo. If nothing else, This Is the Sonics shows fans of King Khan, the Black Lips, and the like that the Sonics were laying the groundwork decades ago and that garage rock remains just as much fun to play and listen to decades later.
Essential Tracks: “I Don’t Need No Doctor”, “Save the Planet”
[Editor’s Note: This review was edited following publishing.]