Sick Puppies


Written by: TL on 26/07/2009 21:23:29

Back when I first made the acquaintance of Australian three piece Sick Puppies, I was surprised to find that in spite of referencing post-grunge and nu-metal, their second album "Dressed Up As Life" was actually a detailed and enjoyable experience, driven by a good sense for writing songs that were both catchy AND edgy at the same time. However, whether it was due to the band's unfortunate choice of name or the sheer untrendiness of their sound, listening sessions have since become next to nonexistent for me, and hence my interest in and expectations for the band's next album have dwindled as well.

Here it is though, "Tri-Polar", the third album from the band who are currently on contract with major label Virgin Records. Now the fact that they're on such a big label will already ring the alarms for some people, and rightfully so, because when we last heard from the band, their sound was directly comparable to that of Nickelback or Hinder, only slightly poppier. This time around though, the two guys and one woman (no, she's not the lead singer, she's the bassist) have gone for a heavier sound, and hence at least the first half of their album is littered with pseudo-aggressive choruses in the veins of Hoobastank, Linkin Park or Trapt. The singing is scratched in these, and the riffs are more metallic, hence the nu-metal is clearer in the soundscape - and this is a bit of a shame.

You see when Sick Puppies could have a name like that and play American style radio rock and still get a good rating for their last album, it was for the following reasons: First of all, the instrumental work is spotless - Being mainstream, the bass and drums rarely stray from their providing the solid base of the sound while the guitar delivers catchy licks, maintaining your attention in those moments where it isn't fixed solely on Shimon Moore's vocals. Vocals that - still mainstream - obviously need to carry a lot of weight, and successfully did so with great detail, attitude and variety on the previous disc. It is some of those positives that have faded from the picture as nu-metal has grown in presence. On those heavier tracks I mentioned earlier, opening duo "War" and "I Hate You" being the perfect examples, Moore sticks all too predictably to cleans in the verses and aggressive in the choruses. This flat out sucks because Moore's hardrock croon is by far the least interesting sound in his arsenal, and it drags the choruses down to the level of those ordinary nu-metal/post-grunge acts the genre died out with.

Thankfully, all is not wry, because there are still little under half an album worth of songs that retain the band's poppified alt-rock/post-grunge sounds, and since these are dominated by Moore's cleans, they shine in small scaled vocal melodies like those of "Should've Known Better" and "Riptide". The slower "Maybe" and "White Balloons", the later of which is complimented by female vocals, are far from bad songs too, hell, even the single "You're Going Down" is catchy in its own right, though plagued by the vocal problems I described as well as an opening bass line that sounds dangerously similar to Dead Kennedy's "Holiday In Cambodia". All in all though, even with all of these songs being decently catchy, memorable and credible, they still don't have the detail or sudden burst of attitude (screams?) that the previous record had, and it speaks it's clear language when the word "bitch" is obviously left out in one line, while on the old album one of the best lines was in the song "Asshole Father". So yeah, this is a solid record and with the heavier sound it will probably cater more to the casual meat head-rockers that the band are exposed to through having "You're Going Down" as the theme for the WWE, but in terms of texture and artistry, it's a step back compared to the last one.


Download: Should've Known Better, Maybe, White Balloons, You're Going Down
For The Fans Of: Hoobastank, Trapt, Quietdrive

Release Date 14.07.2009
Virgin Records

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