If you ever get to travel around Portugal, you’ll notice a sense of calm along the Douro which stretches from the border with Spain through the winding vineyards where the smell of wine hangs in the air where after several hours drive you arrive in sleepy Porto.
Sunflowers are from said cit, and clearly they're on a mission to be the antidote to this calm by being as snotty and as fuck you as they can be. This follow up to their 2016 debut, The Intergalactic Guide to Find the Red Cowboy, is a blistering ten track collection which has this this double headed riff machine in a mood so sleazy you’d expect it to soundtrack the Titty Twister bar scene in Robert Rodriguez’s 1996 film From Dusk Til Dawn. Lyrics are yelped in unison by Carlo De Jesus (guitars/vocals) and Carolina Brandao (drums/vocals) and their respective instruments are thrashed to create a gloriously ramshackle sound so noisy it’s hard to believe it’s just two people making it.
Ok, so it’s clear from the sound that they’re big fans of Oh Sees or whatever they’re called this week - De Jesus even uses the same clipped vocal styling of John Dwyer, with an added dash of camp via Lux Interior from The Crampsbut The Oh Sees are the greatest exponents of modern day freakbeat, so when Sunflowers visit the same area of psychedelia the results are just as thrilling.
"Surfin’ With The Phantom" is an update of Dick Dale’s "Miserlou" fused with the punk of Big Black, "The Siren" is five thrilling minutes of rabid psych, the whirling guitar-work so potent here it could bring on a mind expanding trip, while the title track is a relentless white knuckle mix of Bleach-era Nirvana with the pop sensibilities of early B-52’s.
They do trash brilliantly too; "Signal Hill" is chaotic, obnoxious, and contains the first great earworm of 2018, a repeated coda of "I fled the mountain I felt the sun" throughout which after breaking for an acapella segment, guitar fuzz and drums are attacked with sniper like precision in a shattering closing third which will make every single hair on the back of your neck stand to attention. It’s exhilarating stuff.
There’s little scope for experimentation here. This is primitive rock and roll performed brilliantly. Uneasy and anxious, it’s as if they broke into a studio and had thirty minutes’ to record an album before they got caught. Death or glory? Castle Spell has the latter in abundance.