Houston Music

Sunburst 17

In one of the more mathematically curious rules of rock and roll, the "power trio" can make sounds that seem far more sizable than their lineup. Acts like Cream, Rush and Crazy Horse proved that, in the immortal philosophy of Schoolhouse Rock, three certainly can be the magic number when it comes to volume and intensity.

Houston's Sunburst 17, whose members previously played together in Follow for Now before settling on their current moniker, falls right into that power trio category with this stunningly impressive self-titled debut. Meaty enough to run afoul of vegans everywhere, this baker's dozen of tracks wake tired and complacent ears with fuzz-bomb blasts and '70s-style hard rock helpings.

Sunburst 17's driving force is singer and guitarist Isaac Perez, a real revelation as both. On the mike, he delivers each line with passion and power -- a refreshing change from many line-reading rock singers. On guitar, he soars and plummets on the scales and takes many surprising turns. The former music student at the University of Houston was obviously not nodding off during class. Meanwhile, the rhythm section -- bassist Henry "Skup" Skupin and drummer Tony "Bones" -- is tightly locked into a twin groove, but the expansive songs give each player ample room to show off his own skills.

The rawness of tracks like "Caught Up" and "Perfect Connection" come across like the soundtrack to a thunderstorm, while the rat-a-tat attack of "Greatest Amount" is the hail hitting your window. The band shows a funkier side on "Big Momma Bomb," with their jazz leanings only building in "Miss You." And "Dance Naked in the Rain" is full of joyous abandon.

But the record's centerpiece is the suite of "Icarus to the Sun" and "I'll Just Run." Catchy and memorable melodies with a Thin Lizzy-like pump and thump weave through both numbers. It's just the stuff to play at full blast through your speakers, neighbors be damned.

But not all of the album succeeds. "Cry Anymore" lapses dangerously close to Creedland, while the slower "Dealings" and Sabbath-like "In Between" drag a bit under the weight of their ambitions. Nevertheless, this is an exciting, get-the-blood-pumping record that makes you wonder what these guys could do live.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero