Sturgill Simpson’s entire brand is going against the grain. Lots of artists are out there subverting today’s Nashville mainstream, but Simpson began by also subverting the guiding principles of traditionalist country his early music drew from, then moved on to subverting his own discography. But none of his past expectation-bucking exploits prepared the world for his 2019.
In the three years since Simpson’s phenomenal A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, Simpson has spent a lot of time touring, but he’s also been making surprising moves behind the scenes. He’s taken up acting, booking roles in the now-shelved controversial thriller The Hunt, Lena Waithe’s Queen & Slim, and Jim Jarmusch’s star-studded zombie movie The Dead Don’t Die, for which he wrote the official theme song. Even more shocking was the news that this country iconoclast’s new album would be accompanied by a full-length anime film released exclusively through Netflix. And when lead single “Sing Along” dropped, it was suddenly questionable whether Sound & Fury would be a country album at all.
The album and film are out today, and our suspicions are confirmed: Simpson has completely overhauled his musical operation. Sound & Fury’s nine tracks forge ahead into a sound something like proggy cyborg ZZ Top. These are big, ostentatious riff-rockers — undergirded with futuristic exoskeletons, overflowing with roadhouse guitar solos and retro synthesizer showmanship. Even without the 45 minutes of animated ultraviolence and hazmat-suit skateboarding, it’s truly something to behold.
So yes, Sound & Fury lives up to Simpson’s description of “a really sleazy, steamy rock n roll record” that’s “definitely my most psychedelic” and “also my heaviest.” He and his band have indeed delivered “a bunch of mad shit-talking songs about how fucking awesome we are.” It’s a trip. Whether his core fan base will want to come along for the ride remains to be seen.
Now’s your chance to find out. Check out the audio-only Sound & Fury below, and watch the anime on Netflix (starting at 3AM EDT) here.
Sound & Fury is out now on Elektra.