Sick Puppies


Written by: TL on 31/03/2014 13:07:11

Unbeknownst to many in these parts, Australian major label trio Sick Puppies have steadily solidified their presence in the realm of American style, radio hard-rock over nigh on twenty years now, and with the band finally making it up to Denmark for a visit to Beta in Copenhagen in two weeks, it has apparently been decided that last year's album "Connect" is getting a re-release around here. Having missed out on its initial release last summer, this presents me with a timely opportunity to get my consistent encounters with the band back on track, and as we get at it, let's get what's most obvious out of the way first:

Sick Puppies are a radio rock band, and a pretty shameless one at that, so what you're in store for here was always a given: Conventional post-grunge styled pop-rock where the consistency of the catchy hooks is what either carries or loses the day. The 'Puppies hit a break with their 09 single "You're Going Down" which was picked up for a soundtrack by the pro-wrestling organisation WWE and that song is followed up here with the hard-edged, yet super-corny, yet irresistibly infectious "Gunfight". Interestingly, for a song that sounds like it speaks to the conservative redneck in you, the track showcases singer/guitarist Shimon Moore's occasional taste for socio-critical lyricism: "Here's a litte story how the west was won, they wound up killing every little indian, they used dirty blankets and they used machine guns" or "The people rose up and said life ain't fair, now they're sweating in a shop making iphones there, if you stand in front of tanks, the tanks are gonna win". Sharp pessimism there which still sounds bone-headed though, by the time the chorus comes around: "Don't bring a knife to a gunfight, you'll lose!".

This has always been the intriguing flash about Sick Puppies though. You go "hey, that's not completely idiotic" only to two seconds later go "but that right there is!" and then three minutes onwards you're still humming the song because it's just straight up catchy. Another example of this is "The Trick The Devil Did" which has a brazen, poppy riff and an instantly singalongable, overdubbed chorus that sounds like something from Hoobastank's heyday. Sadly however, for much of the remaining album the 'Puppies are undeniably starting to gradually sound as dated as their likely influences have for years. Whether they do aggro-rock ("Walking Away"), encouraging anthemics ("There's No Going Back", "Where Did The Time Go") or Three Doors Down-style balladry ("Poison", "Telling Lies") the results range from pedestrian over typical up to no higher than solid.

Here and there it seems the band makes minor attempts to branch out, like in the almost folk-ish semi-acoustic title track, or with the increased usage of bassist Emma Anzai's vocals. The former isn't resolved too well in my opinion, but the latter does add some interesting spice to the band's soundscape in the unusually ambitious sounding opener and closer "Die To Save You" and "Under A Very Black Sky". The latter in particular channels Muse as it sends the album off, and while it does sound unusual for the band, I think they need to take more chances like this unless they have no higher ambitious than to stick on wrestling show soundtracks and retrospective radio-rock charts. Obviously I know that it makes no sense to expect a band like this to be the ones pushing artistic envelopes, but still that brazen catchyness that's made the 'Puppies worthwhile on prior albums just feels a notch more timid on here. So all in all, here's to hoping for a well-rounded setlist if we see you at the show on the 13th.


Download: Gunfight, The Trick The Devil Did
For The Fans Of: Three Days Grace, Quietdrive, Hoobastank

Release date 31.03.2014 (originally 16.07.2013)
Virgin / EMI / Capitol

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