You know what? It’s about damn time. Sunburned Hand of the Man, at the height of their powers, were the sun around which so much revolved. The sprawling, shapeshifting collective featured an endless stream of incredible artists, progressive ideas, and otherworldly, cathartic jams that if you weren’t totally overwhelmed – in the best way possible – you probably weren’t paying close enough attention. On Pick a Day to Die, the torches are relit and the magic is back.
Even if they never really went away, it felt like there’s been a void in the universe for a while. And then, Headless came out a couple years ago and it felt like a new chapter was starting. Even so, Pick a Day to Die is the moment Sunburned busted through the banners WWE-style, fully announcing their return to the ring and showing that, even after all this time, they’re still at the apex. The vitriolic holler with which Shannon Ketch spews the line ,“Let’s take a ride to midnight. I’ll help you unzip your mask. Pick a day to die,” is evidence enough, but as the jam builds and morphs into a labyrinth of acid-soaked rhythms and tightly-controlled chaos, it becomes clear there are new levels being unlocked here.
One thing that stands out after many listens is that Pick a Day to Die is never at a loss for new ideas. Each song sounds different and mines different vibes all in search of the groove. And that’s the thing with Sunburned that they’ve always had over a lot of contemporaries: they make music that gets your ass shaking, while getting all kinds of weird in the process. “Black Lights” has bass lines for days while guitars drip like liquid crystals over the surface and “Flex” oscillates into oblivion, hypnotically lulling you into a gyrating trance. “Prix Fixe” goes straight to heaven, though. Spastic and in-your-face to start, it tears the stage down to get everyone swaying in unison, arms to the sky listening to J. Mascis languidly shred over the soundtrack synths and percussive thuds.
Pick a Day to Die is an album I needed in 2021 far more than I realized. It takes me back to another time while rocketing my ass ahead into better days at the same time. Get on board and move to the back because the ride is starting over again.