Sonny Smith – 100 Records Volume 2: I Miss the Jams

January 01, 1970

(Turn Up)


In certain towns, San Francisco included, garage bands come
and go with such speed that you sometimes wonder if guys are just making
shit up
when they pull out another side project. In Sonny Smith’s case, the
answer is, yes, actually.


For his 100 Records collection, Smith invented a
hundred bands, each with its own name and aesthetic. Then he wrote them each a
two-sided single, recorded these songs, occasionally with help from other Bay
Area rockers, and created art for them. In a project that is part conceptual
art, part San Francisco
garage smackdown, he curated a collection of 200 songs and boxed them into a
five-volume vinyl collection. This single disc CD compilation collects the
cream of Smith’s 100 records, ten songs in ten styles with Sonny and the
Sunsets compadre Kelley Stoltz on drums, and guest shots from Ty Segall, the
Fresh & Only’s Tim Cohen, Skygreen Leopards’ Donovan Quinn and the
Sandwitches Heidi Alexander.


Part of the joy of 100 Records is watching Smith try
on styles like a kid with a wardrobe key, dressing up now as a rockabilly
(Robert Chuffy & the Tranquil People’s Choir’s “Ain’t No Turning Back”),
now as a sharp-dressed soul man (Prince Nedick’s “Back in the Day (I Can’t
Stand It)”, now as a pot-wafting, psychedelic freakster (Wayward Youth’s
“Garbage Storm”). His tour de force is a Cash-esque spoken word piece called
“Broke Artist at the Turn of the Century.” The song meanders through a country
noire landscape of personal failure, artistic pretense, dubious
entrepreneurship and unexpected acts of chivalry.  It also closes with one of my favorite lines
ever:  “Dear Tina, the world is odd and
senseless and I’ll be home late.”


The songs that Smith performs by himself are already
unusually diverse, in a low-key, retro-rocking kind of way. When the guests get
involved, things get even crazier. You might not even recognize Ty Segall
impersonating Zig Speck in the opener, “One Time Doomsday Trip to Nowhere,” but
Heidi Alexander is all Sandwitch-y adorability. 
She infuses her turn as Earth Girl Helen Brown with a goofy girl-group
sweetness, like one of the Shirelles with chocolate malted on her upper lip. Pablo
Liendro makes a highlight out of bilingual”Teenage Thugs,” gunshots pinging off
a swaggering refrain, and Donovan Quinn puts a sweet, dreamy vulnerability into
the loosely strung title track, even if he is recording as a Fuckaroo.


The whole thing sounds like a lot of fun – for Smith who
brought to reality what must have seemed like a crazy idea, for his cohorts who
got to slip out of their own skins for a little while, and for listeners, who
get a clutch of really fun, really silly rock and roll songs out of the deal. In
a better world, there really would be bands called the Fuckaroos, the Loud Fast
Fools and Cabezas Cortades. In Sonny Smith’s world, there are.


DOWNLOAD: “Teenage Thugs,” “I Wanna Do It”, “Broke Artist at the Turn of the Century” JENNIFER KELLY




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