It looks like psychedelic rock band The Sonic Dawn wanted to silence their critics by anticipating what they are going to say. Or maybe they are reacting to criticism they faced in the past. In any case, the lyrics to the first track of their new album Eclipse sound like a manifesto, a declaration of what they are up to, the track’s title serving as a motto: Forever 1969.
“You like to think that we are left behind, but really, man, we’re ahead of our time.”
I must admit that I feel a bit guilty for having thought just that when first listening to the album: that the band and their vintage psychedelic rock are somewhat “left behind.” However, the manifesto character of the first track got me intrigued. To start your album in this way is a pretty smart move. It changed my initial attitude and made me more inclined to give the band’s fascination with this special period in history some serious thought.
So… What does it mean to be 1969?
Politically and philosophically, I’d say, it means you’re anti-war. Since the Vietnam War is long over, you’re probably against any armed conflict in which the US (with the help of their allies) is exercising its self-chosen role as policeman of the world. “Live and let live” is your maxim. Everywhere you go, you stress the need for love and peace.
Musically, being 1969 means you like psychedelic rock and fuzz rock. You like bands like the Doors, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. You’re probably also fond of the Beatles and Janis Joplin. Any of the names I just mentioned can serve as a reference for The Sonic Dawn’s sound and lyrics, but if I had to pin it down, I’d say it’s the Beatles and the Doors with a bit of fuzz.
Looks-wise, you prefer your hair long and unkept, and you like wearing colourful flower and paisley designs. You’re also drug-friendly, not in general, but you’ve definitely got a positive attitude towards consciousness-expanding drugs. Your idea of a good time is listening to the bands above, outside, in the sun, with hundreds of thousands of like-minded people, your experience enhanced by drugs.
If you can see yourself in the scenario I just sketched, if you support the ideas and like the bands I mentioned, you will most likely enjoy Eclipse and its vintage sound. But can this be more than a nostalgic trip back through time? The band claims that the music and the ideas of 1969 are still relevant, even “ahead of our time” and that “times may change / but the struggle remains the same.”
Well, I don’t know about that. Sure, some great music has been made during that period and important innovations like distortion were introduced. But music hasn’t stopped evolving since then. It will never stop evolving, as long as there are musicians around who want to take things further. Every time produces its own literature, art and music. Yes, it is true that “the struggle” basically always remains the same and consciousness-expanding drugs like LSD might really help some people to get through the struggle of life, but I don’t think you can fast-track and cheat your way to enlightenment with them. I believe you have to go through the spiritual equivalent of lather, rinse, repeat. Also, I’m really not convinced that pacifism is always the right course.
Having thought about all of the above, I must say that this kind of vintage music can never be more than a trip down memory lane for me. I like a good history lesson. I wrote my thesis on the American war novel (yeah, I’m weird) and The Things They Carried by Vietnam War veteran Tim O’Brien is one of my favourite books. I really get the spirit of the time. But we have to deal with other issues today, so much more complex, and they require other approaches and different solutions. In my opinion, there are musical expressions that better capture the spirit of today’s craziness. You are welcome to disagree. To each his/her own.