With the release of Twentytwo in Blue, Sunflower Bean has released the most politically charged album of their career; a poignant statement matched with the affective anthemic rock songs that have come to be their trademark. Almost immediately, the album had sent me back nearly a decade to my early twenties in a wage of nostalgia and confusion in a young millenium. Then, Blink-182 was the band for the disaffected and disillusioned; their cheery exterior and childish antics at the time was a soap box for them to stand on.
Although, the members of Sunflower Bean I’m sure would hate this comparison, I find a lot to admire in the way both bands handled youth: the awkwardness of being in love, not knowing who you are, and the first grapplings with the idea that you aren’t exactly in control of the plot just yet. Personally, every time I see an op-ed about how millennials are ruining this or that, I gripe that we literally have no control over The Way Things Are, milked from the lines of “Anthem Part Two”: “if we’re fucked up, you’re to blame.” I can see the same thing happening for some other disaffected youth with Sunflower Bean’s own anthemic “Crisis Fest.”
I’m older now, past the demarcation line that separates the youthful from the not, and sporting a hairline that belies the past. To listen to this album is to hear it as a person who had already gone through the messy parts of growing up and figuring out what it means to be in your teens and twenties. I had Blink-182 for better or worse. But I can’t help but think of these kids—the tail end of millennials and whatever the next generation is going to be called, and especially these kids from Parkland leading a movement to try and fix the fuckups the previous generations had failed to take care of. As someone who lived through Columbine, 9/11, two Wars and a major financial crash, I still don’t know how you’re supposed to deal with all this shit and figure yourself out at the same time without the aid of something: music, art, movies, books. Something.
I can imagine that this album, while powerful to my ears, can be that something for a lot of people who need it. Not every song is as overtly political as “Crisis Fest.” The first single “I Was a Fool,” directly tackles the irresolute minds of young love. But note the past tense in the title, I was a fool. Lessons are never learned easily, but learning is an essential part of being. While the very next song, the titular “Twentytwo,” answers “if I could do it, I would stay young for you.” But that was almost the problem with Blink-182, there was so much more growing up to do ahead of them, and that was the same for me. To hear how Sunflower Bean responds and reacts is generally awe-inspiring. It’s as if despite what anyone says about kids, they’re always ready to handle more than we all think—even someone not so far removed.
This is still a rock album, something that needs to be said. Although something being “just a rock album” went out the door close to fifty years ago, it almost doesn’t matter what you say if the music sucks. But the music doesn’t suck. The songs here are more skeletal, which is what you’d expect from a sophomore effort, but this is not a hindrance for this band. The same way Buddy Holly does not sound like The Velvet Underground does not sound like Fleetwood Mac does not sound like Beat Happening, Sunflower Bean have found their own way to play the magic chord combinations lending something to an unmistakable sound despite owing to the many giants whose shoulders they stand on.
Sunflower Bean’s Twentytwo in Blue seemed destined for the moment that it has entered this world. While the bands previous efforts dealt with heartbreak and mysticism, this new album subtly and not-so-subtly hits on topics that feel more important than ever. The threads throughout the album are of persistence and resistance, of vocalizing love and hurt, disillusionment and discovery. These are themes that bear repeating once a generation. Thankfully this band took on this lofty task, along with all the other artists and young people who have a lot of shouting to do.
Article: Christopher Gilson