Sedated musical enigma
Breaking their silence since 2010, Sunburned Hand of the Man released their newest LP, Pick A Day To Die, in a flurry of music genres unbecoming of this psychedelic rock group. With over a hundred previous releases, it seems as if this band might have run its course in music style. Though since the 1990s, this band has churned out an exhausting amount of music in any style you can fathom.
In the wake of the split of the previous band, Shit Spangled Banner, Sunburned Hand of the Man formed to ride the wake for good. This album is a collection of previous recordings, all dated from their musical career over the past three decades as a group.
The album’s namesake, “Pick A Day To Die,” morphs the ecstasy of ’70s psych music with the tuneage of the late ’90s. Haunting echoes from vocalist Shannon Ketch form a new symphony, with far-off hypnosis meant to lock people’s soul with the track. While obscure in sound, this seven-minute wonder is what this band embodies—distinctness.
“Flex” follows a similar path, picking up the difference with more synth and phased guitar. But it holds onto the trance-like mood this album seems to place people under. This song is a groove but overindulges in being sedated by musical taste. After minute two, it seems to lose its trance. “Black Lights” is a whole other spectrum of color. It by no meaning eases listeners into the chilled track it develops into with a meaningless spew of distorted guitar. But as the distortion fades, the song becomes twangy and loosens up. The grip has been untightened to make space for a new stream of consciousness not there before.
“Solved” offers a tempo that is both unrelenting and distracting. A relaxing acoustic guitar from Jeremy Pisani forgoes this, but is masked by Ketch’s primitive vocalizations. An assortment of sound effects seems to melt together periodically, droning on to the lack of dynamism this song offers—definitely one of the odder tracks on this album.
To further follow this very strange musical endeavor, “Initials” provides an array of sonic ingredients for this psychedelic recipe. Sporadic hollowed shouting accents the ever-building complexity of instruments this song provides. It seems to be attempting a build-up to a crescendo but falls flat with a continuance of new ingredients. What tops off this lop-sided creation are the space-synth blips and manipulated conversation—though the bass riffs are quite nice.
The album’s closer, “Prix Fixe,” might be the most musically relevant track. While there is no limit to the creativity of this musical collective, “Prix Fixe” at least contains a dwindling amount of structure other tracks do not have. Exhortations and random distressed screaming subdue the song itself, but a stellar guitar solo quickly flips this song on its back for the betterment of the album. A mellowed-out six-string wonder takes this album to somewhere it hadn’t reached yet— an audience.
Though change is nice and broadens a musician’s scope, it is not for everyone. This collection seems to lack a connection or emotion. Songs like “Flex” and “Initials” have no underlying meaning and forgoes the establishment behind an album release. Though one thing which wrangled in the songs on Pick A Day To Die seemed to be Pisani’s guitar—and for that, he should be thanked.