Song of the day: Sunnyboys – "Show Me Some Discipline"

At the request of a commenter (as in: “How can you call yourself an Australian power pop blog without mentioning them?”), I’m presenting you with some Sunnyboys today. However, it’s with a degree of reluctance*.

I have to admit straight away that the Sunnyboys is a band that I just don’t get. I’m fully aware that they have a devoted fanbase in Australia. They’re talked about in reverent tones all across this wide brown land. They’re regularly cited by music critics as a seminal force in Australian power pop. Wikipedia even claims that “They produced melodic power pop classics“.

Despite all of the above, I’ve tried and tried to like their music so I can join in all that Sunnyboys love, but I fear it’s a lost cause.

I recently ploughed through the Sunnyboys discography – listening and relistening to as many songs of theirs as I could find – and have come to the conclusion that I’m missing something that Australian power pop fans have in their love for this band.

I can only conclude that all those Sunnyboys fans know something I don’t, because what I heard over the course of three albums and one EP was music that was, to me, uniformly dreary. I listened for something special, but overall I found the songs to be melodically uninspiring, instrumentally unadventurous, and structurally unremarkable.

The lyrics are concerned almost exclusively with sour relationships. The singer bemoans about girls that he: a) was unhappy with; b) is unhappy with; or c) is going to be unhappy with.

The band’s called the Sunnyboys, but there’s absolutely nothing sunny about them. Maybe their name is “ironic”, like Joy Division, the Happy Mondays, or Fun Boy Three, where none of those bands were joyous, happy, or fun.

“Enough words!” I hear you protest. “Where’s the music so I can make up my own mind?” you ask.

OK, let’s start with this:

Sunnyboys – “Show Me Some Discipline” (1981)

Link

And here’s “Happy Man”. You tell me how happy the band sounds:

Sunnyboys – “Happy Man” (1981)

Link

They don’t sound terribly happy to me.

Here they are with their debut single:

Sunnyboys – “Alone With You” (1981)

Link

I find that dreary. I find the singing dreary (and in the other two songs as well). I find the chord progressions dreary. And I’m not keen on how the vocal melody basically sings the chords being played, which makes it even more dreary. And most parts of the song remind me of “Echo Beach” which doesn’t help one bit. (I’ve never been keen on any song that rhymes “watch the sun go down” with “watch the sun go down”.)

Here’s another track:

Sunnyboys – “The Seeker” (1981)

Link

To my ears, there’s not much of a melody there for me to latch on to. And one thing I find irritating is the background vocals – they’re doing nothing more than singing the chords.

Incidentally, two of those songs are in the key of A minor, and the other two in B minor. But that’s not unique in the Sunnyboys discography. Of all the songs I listened to, most of them were in a minor key, with A minor being the most popular. After being exposed to 30 to 40 Sunnyboys songs, it felt to me like they were all in the key of A minor.

I could play you more songs, but I think those four are fairly typical of the band’s output and give you a decent idea of their music. (Although the songs presented here are early ones, they’re typical. I was hoping that the band would progress as time went on and their songs would become melodically and lyrically more adventurous or sophisticated, but no, they stayed pretty much the same.) Plus I don’t want this post to be longer than it needs to be. (I reckon Sunnyboys fans would argue that this post didn’t even need to exist, let alone be a long one.) And if I play more Sunnyboys tracks here, there’s a pretty strong chance that they’d prompt me to offer more unwelcome commentary on each song which would make this post look like one big complaint (it probably does anyway). Plus I really don’t want to raise the ire of Sunnyboys fans any more than I have already. (Please don’t form a picket line outside this blog. I respect your love of the Sunnyboys, but alas I don’t share it.)

Now, contrary to everything you’ve just read here, I certainly don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. Maybe the Sunnyboys were a band that made a deep impression on young Australian minds in the 1980s. (“They were a part of my youth!”) Or maybe the Sunnyboys were great live, and people remember how fantastic a Sunnyboys gig was during that time.

I sure don’t want to tell people who love the Sunnyboys to stop loving them. Each to their own and all that. But for me, when I’m listening to the Sunnyboys I’m constantly asking myself, “What do people see in them?”

To that end, would you mind having a listen to those four songs and tell me what I’m missing?

And if you’re a Sunnyboys fan, can you tell me why I’m wrong not to like them and point me in the direction of some Sunnyboys song I might like?

Sunnyboys on MySpace

(*And this is the first post to have broken my general rule for the blog: that I only play songs here that I like.)

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12 Responses to Song of the day: Sunnyboys – "Show Me Some Discipline"

  1. Anonymous says:

    For a sample of pre Sunnyboys Jeremy Oxley check out this from early 1980.
    The Strand live at the Miami Hotel. Jeremy Oxley singing Roadrunner.

  2. Peter says:

    Thanks, Anonymous, for pointing me in the direction of that particular performance of “Roadrunner”.

    For me, it was better than the version by The Zombies but worse than the one by The Who. But thanks anyway.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mate, are you Australian? I grew up listening to this stuff, surfed to it, played in a band that covered most of it. Are you a musician? Regardless of that, the Sunnyboys were the most influential band of their era. Jeremy Oxley, in my opinion was, and is, a genius. If you saw 'em live in their heyday you would be converted. Do you like Radio Birdman? or The Newchrists? Well, Rob Younger almost became the singer when the Sunnyboys first formed. He stood aside as, he saw something special about that band. If you want to concentrate on love lyrics,Justin Bieber may well suit your tastes. Seriously, I want to throw my guitar in bag of dicks and bash you over the head with it!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Until you convert, I have a large collection of guitars and your mum donated several more bags of dicks that she had killed, so, expect to be bashed until you throw out your Bronski Beat 'Access all areas backstage pass'!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Peter says:

    Aloha, unidentified humanoid!

    “Mate, are you Australian?”

    As far as I'm aware, yep.

    “I grew up listening to this stuff, surfed to it, played in a band that covered most of it. Are you a musician?”

    Yes indeed. (I'm a bass player.)

    “Regardless of that, the Sunnyboys were the most influential band of their era. Jeremy Oxley, in my opinion was, and is, a genius. If you saw 'em live in their heyday you would be converted.”

    That's entirely possible.

    “Do you like Radio Birdman?”

    Occasionally.

    “or The Newchrists?”

    I haven't heard any music by The New Christs. (Note to self: find some music by The New Christs and listen to it.)

    “Well, Rob Younger almost became the singer when the Sunnyboys first formed. He stood aside as, he saw something special about that band. If you want to concentrate on love lyrics,Justin Bieber may well suit your tastes.”

    That's possible, but all I've heard of Justin Bieber is him repeating the word “Baby” for a few seconds until I lost interest in hearing Justin Bieber repeating the word “Baby”.

    “Seriously, I want to throw my guitar in bag of dicks and bash you over the head with it!”

    Fair enough. You'll find that very easy to do, because I'm a pacifist. (But I'm not quite sure of who all those Richards are.)

  6. Peter says:

    “Until you convert, I have a large collection of guitars and your mum donated several more bags of dicks that she had killed, so, expect to be bashed until you throw out your Bronski Beat 'Access all areas backstage pass'!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    You sound very excited. I like your passion. I like how you have a lot of guitars, but I'm still not sure of who all those Richards are. (Are you thinking of Dirty Dick's, the restaurant chain?)

    Unfortunately, I wasn't much of a Bronski Beat fan. All that falsetto wailing just wasn't the kind of thing I enjoyed hearing in the 80s. You just reminded me of a comment English DJ/comedian Kenny Everett once made. When he heard the Bronski Beat's “Smalltown Boy” he said that they sounded like “peeled pigs”.

    And I'm reminded yet again that it's all a matter of personal taste.

  7. stonefish55 says:

    Sometimes it just amazes me how full some people are of themselves. To threaten and run somebody down because of their taste in music just astonishes me and to become that personal in his/her attack – well, I think it says quite a bit about the character of somebody who hides behind a veil of anonymity.

    Loved your response Peter – and let me add, that although I don't dislike the Sunny Ones, I think that they were a pretty ordinary band and that there have been plenty of other bands who have shaped Australian music much more than they have.

    Sorry mate – I was going to bite my tongue, but I couldn't believe what I was reading and NOT being a pacifist myself, couldn't help but add my two bob's worth.

    As for the Sunnyboys' record in Australia – yeah, sure they had a handful of charting singles, but the highest they managed to climb on Aussie charts was #15 (“Alone With You”) and their next highest charter was #27 (“Show Me Some Discipline”) – not quite what I'd call influential – but I have heard (not experienced) that they were a good live band (but so were so many others).

    For what it's worth – I think that anonymous should find a dark corner and suck some more on the contents of that bag that he says that he has in his possession.

  8. Peter says:

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Stoney.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Baaahhaaahhaa Great Stuff Stoney! Now that you've finished 'Nut Huggin' Pete, I will explain myself. Did you have a favourite genre of music when you were a teenager? How'd they make you feel? I remember a time when Australian music was unique based on its sound alone. Do some homework on the roots of Australian alternative music coz quoting chart statistics only tells me you can't play any instrument but the ones you secretly desire in those bags. By the way, anonymity saves capable people like me,from the legalities of sooks like you (stoney) who run to the police when your crying and bleeding all over yourself.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Touche.I commend you on your response Pete, and as you stated, it is all a matter of personal taste….However, I have just previewed Stoneys profile and realise that my comment directed at his sexuallity may be correct. WTF Stoney! When you say your a martial arts fan, this tells me you own a 'Tap-Out' t-shirt and mum and dad book all the UFC events on pay-per view for you and… what's worse is the picture of ShortSACK on your page.You sing to that shit? Baaaahhhhaaaaa I Like YOU Pete but Stoney….you are as sharp as a wet chamois!

  11. Anonymous says:

    What's not to understand?? If you don't understand the Sunnyboys you have no place writing a music blog. Stay with Bieber and Lady Gaga.

  12. Peter says:

    Can do, young Anonymous.

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