Sound — 9
There's been a lot of buzz about the Sick Puppies, thanks primarily to the claims that the Australian band has the #10 most-viewed video of all time on YouTube. That video for All The Same features a man holding a billboard giving out Free Hugs, and it ended up attracting enough attention to be mentioned on Oprah, Jay Leno, and an assortment of other big-name shows. Besides making video history, the band is quickly becoming a favorite of radio and it's listeners, with LA's KROQ making Sick Puppies its first add of 2007. The trio's debut album Dressed Up As Life may not quite live up to the entertainment world's infatuation with them, but it does go way beyond just dishing out the usual alternative-rock tracks. Vocalist/guitarist Shimon Moore, bassist Emma Anzai, and drummer Mark Goodwin should be given credit for experimenting with unique chord changes, tempos, and vocal stylings in Dressed Up As Life. One of the most memorable tracks is Howard's Tale, a tune that seems to continuously change it's format and is almost like a roller coaster in terms of the energy of the song. The band's ability to go full-force, then suddenly completely pull back, is exactly what makes the song so interesting. Along with a great driving guitar riff throughout, Howard's Tale represents the Sick Puppies at their best. The band really shines when it comes to the up-tempo songs, thanks in part to Moore's passionate vocal delivery and his use of brief licks that add a little color to the regular chords. Issues is the perfect example of Moore's work, and the song is made even more intriguing when you hear an out-of-nowhere creepy vocal thrown into the mix. It sounds more like a demonic Marianne Faithfull than Moore, and it really takes the song in an unexpected direction. There are few weak spots in terms of Sick Puppies' songwriting, and those rare moments do seem to come in the more balladic songs. Even though there are a few shaky moments along the way, there are still plenty of cool moments in the other track to make the flaws forgivable. The album does seem to get stronger and stronger as it goes along, and it hits a fantastic pinnacle with the slow-groove (and eventual punk-oriented style) of The Bottom. This last track is the one that allows both bassist Anzai and drummer Goodwin to step in the spotlight themselves.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics don't ever get to the level of the music on Dressed Up As Life, but they're not bad by any means. The song All The Same has pretty straightforward lyrics that are heartwarming, but perhaps somewhat predictable. Moore sings, Go ahead tell me you'll leave again; You'll just come back running; Holding your scarred heart in hand; It's all the same. The music outshines the words of All The Same, but the emotional quality of the lyrics should appeal to many listeners. Pitiful shows off a bit more originality in the lyrics and is a fun listen altogether. Moore sings, My life's so pitiful; Give me one good reason why I shouldn't end it all; If there's a reason then I haven't found it yet; And I'll try every drug I find; Except maybe heroin and cyanide. The band thinks a bit outside the box on Pitiful and it pays off for the song as a whole.
Overall Impression — 9
While some bands' songs tend to sound the same after a while, the Sick Puppies continue to find new ways to make it interesting. Whether it is an odd chord progression, an unexpected harmony, or a bass breakdown that comes out of nowhere, the band never allows one song to sound like another. It's hard not to be a skeptical listener when a band has been given so much hype, but Sick Puppies prove with their debut release that they do deserve some of that attention. This is not to say that the band is breaking that much new ground or re-inventing a genre, but the trio has put out a solid set of songs that do stand out from most of the new bands out there.