SUNSPOT – Singularity
There is really only one word that best describes Sunspot: fun. Perhaps another word could apply to them for the year 2008, going into 2009: ambitious. Not only did the band record another album of original material – their fifth – but embarked on a mission to produce a song and an accompanying video every month. The result was Singularity, a double-disc CD/DVD capturing the band in all their humorous glory and melodramatic angst. The idea was a good one because to see the band live, or to get to them a bit as the videos allow, is to appreciate where they’re coming from.
Sunspot isn’t known for pushing the envelope; in fact they are quite comfortable tucked inside a tidy box of seventies-inspired rock that pulls few punches musically. There are many similarities in some of the melodies and song structures and, as a trio, they don’t venture too far away from what they can reproduce live onstage. Ben Jaeger is a talented guitarist, able to shred but not over-indulging. Mike Huberty is a good vocalist, strong even if not gifted with a wide range. Also a capable bassist, he and drummer Wendy Lynn Staats provide a solid foundation that holds down a groove efficiently while not getting tricky or syncopating in any great measure.
The band’s calling card is their lyrical content and energetic stage performance. Some of the songs are downright hilarious, others borderline offensive, but in a good way. Two of the videos in particular were hilarious. “Grand Guignol (means “an entertainment with sensational or horrifying dramatic intent”) depicts a crazed Staats chasing Jaeger around the house, yard and general vicinity wielding a butcher knife, while Huberty vocally implores her to “stop being such an asshole”. It’s slapstick but this one had me laughing out loud. “Square Root of All Evil” is a take on the evils of money with the key line being “I only want enough to say FU.” Here they start out on a street bench in the winter. But before long the video segues into several hilarious setups, one of which has Staats working as a stripper for pimp Huberty, who hoovers a big line of coke in the dressing room.
Sunspot makes no bones about their social status. The band that named one of their albums Neanderthal again takes several potshots at themselves. “More Than My Degree” is a hot-for T.A. send-up that has Huberty pleading “I want you more than my degree” with several other humorous lines like “There’s a number I’d like to discuss after class” while he writes I will not hide in my T.A.’s underwear drawer on a blackboard. “Trashy Hot” is an oh-well take on going home with an obvious whore. “Path of Least Resistance” bemoans the fact that “I should have been a scholar instead of a pub crawler” while the band metaphorically pushes a car up a hill in the video.
Not all is in jest, however. “Uncanny Valley” seems to lament man’s digression into machine status. “2012” announces the “death rattle of the condemned” for a generation that is picking up from the chaos of the baby-boomers. “Tunguska” is a surprisingly straight-ahead breakup song. “Sweet Relief” seems to be the ironic centerpiece of the album, a swaying ballad that departs from Sunspot’s pop/rock toughness. The video, which won the first MAMA video award in 2009, is a bit over the top in melodrama but the track grows in likeability with repeated listening and is the best-crafted composition on the album.