Sonny Smith’s Rod For Your Love is a straightforward, guitar-driven rock album with 60s era stylistic influence. The simplistic nature of the album differs from Smith’s other solo works and previous albums released with Sonny & The Sunsets. Moods Baby Moods, 2016 release by Sonny & The Sunsets, was a complex, genre-melding album combining punk, new wave, funk, synthpop and others in narrative form. Many of his previous works, including solo releases, utilize Smith’s knack for storytelling and are laden with dark psychedelic imagery and social commentary. Rod For Your Love is a bright, humane, stripped-down project with simplistic instrumentation. It is still compelling, touching on society as a whole, while focusing on individualistic thoughts about the past, love, meaning, liberation, and depression. Influences from 60s pop like reversed guitar, psychedelic distortion, woodwind, and harp effects, and The Doors-esque organ make this a 2018 ode to the era of sunshine pop and budding psychedelia.

It’s a nostalgic album that makes you think of summers long ago with songs touching on the past such as “Pictures of You” and “Lost.” The catchy, upbeat lyrics in the former, “By the convenience store / I waited for the bus to pull away / and through the fumes / a picture of you and your funny face,” convey happily seeing the past in your everyday life. The psychedelic vocal distortion and harp effects make not only the subject matter of the song reminiscent of the past, but the instrumentation too. Imagery like taking the bus across the street from the laundromat and broken parking meters take you out of the world of Uber and in-home washing machines and puts you in a lens of a young kid trying to make it in the city during the summer of love.

The theme of liberation emerges in tracks like “Slaves” and “Live, Love, and Be Free.” Both deal with breaking free from the tropes of the modern world and bringing unconditional love back to it. “Live, Love and Be Free” is an uplifting song addressed to his son urging him to “to always be free.” The following lyrics “The truth of life is gone / but in the dark you can see / may push past the tide / and always dream big dreams,” show that although there is not a true, definite meaning to life it always pays to love yourself and spread that love to others. The Beatles-sounding harmonization incite a feeling of unity as Smith tries to convey this message of peace. “Rod For Your Love” is a true love song, incorporating breezy bongo drumming, melodic vocals, and synthy woodwinds. The short track speaks to to helping someone find love in a world of danger with its catchy and easily distinguishable lyrics.

However, the album conveys more than just good vibrations. “Bores Me to Tears” is about Smith’s lack of interest in the modern world: “They talk about war / and they talk about love / and it bores me to tears / they talk about change / and it bores me to tears.” The “they” he is referring are the world’s leaders. This shows his lack of interest in the current events of the world, and how he views it as ingenuine. With other tracks like “More Bad Times” and “Adventures,” which both focus on negative aspects of life like misfortune, boredom, and depression, provide a break from the sunny vibes of the album. The upbeat, optimistic instrumentation and vocals contradict the more heavy subject matter. If you don’t really listen to the lyrics they’re still luminous, endearing tracks. The inclusion of these songs show that although you can make your life free and loving, there is not an escape from basic human sorrow. The happiness of the album shows that even though the negative exists, they can be spun to be joyful through a change of perspective and attitude.

-Cameron Coleman