Music note: For the love of Sunshine Behavior

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A few years back, I swung by the Cabooze to catch New Primitives and caught what turned out to be a very interesting surprise. Walking into the club, I saw onstage four young white guys, naked from the waist up, barely a bicep among them and figured, man, they must scraping the bottom of barrel for opening acts. Then, from inside the dressing room (or, as Prims frontman Stan Kipper calls it, the Voodoo Lounge), I was reaching for something somebody was handing me and froze in suspended animation as this wall of sound exploded from the other side of the door. I went back out into the club. The skinny kids were playing their narrow asses off—rocking with incredible energy, tight as the crack of dawn, vocalist Harley Wood piercing the air with relentless, impassioned urgency. So much for judging a book by its cover.

That was my introduction to Sunshine Behavior, one hellified band even for the Twin Cities scene, which is well-known for hellified bands. After they finished their set—to absolutely insane applause from the packed house—I got a demo from bass player Jimmy Lyback and, the next day, found myself fascinated with the music. They do a lot of power chords, not a lot of intricate riffing on guitar, but hardly what you’d accordingly expect. They play with appreciable finesse. No sloppy, club-handed drumming or mundane, super-thick bass runs. And on guitar, like I said, not an abundance of intricacy, but when Justin Schommer does downshift to let his nimble fingers go walking over the frets, it is very, very tasty. In fact, there are moments with sweet hints of Hendrix circa, say, “The Wind Cries Mary” as well as spaces in which Schommer goes for broke with beautiful, screaming lines that stop you right dead in the middle of reaching for what someone is handing you. Drummer Jeremy Krueth smokes the backbeat like your mom’s home-cooked breakfast, so good and hot you can’t hardly believe it.

Their album, Sunshine Behavior, came in the mail and, of course, I had to hear how it came out. Thumbs up. These guys have put together a CD that truly kicks ass and takes names. Regrettably, “Bar of Chocolate,” a song that wondrously harks back to the old San Francisco sound, didn’t make the final cut. Thankfully, “April’s Fool” did. By turns delicate and pile-driving, it’s a killer, radio-ready cut with splendidly wizened lyrics about a lad bitterly disillusioned by romancing a flighty lass. He winds up with a broken heart and a doctor bill to boot. “Today,” a hands-down winner, also survived the cut. For this one, Justin Schommer and Jimmy Lyback switch shoes, Lyback acquitting himself on guitar (Justin Schommer’s bass is buried, but what you hear of it works fine).

The songwriting is solid. The execution burns. In the remote chance there’s justice in the music industry, Sunshine Behavior’s eponymous debut album should put this band on the map.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.

Also in the Daily Planet, read Dwight Hobbes on The New Primitives (June 2008).