Review: Sick Puppies – ‘Tri-Polar’

Posted: July 27th, 2009
Contributed By: Nick

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Release Date: July 14th, 2009 via Virgin
Sick Puppies is:
Shimon Moore (Vocals/Guitar)
Emma Anzai (Bass)
Mark Goodwin (Drums)

Overview: Maybe it was fate that brought Australian band Sick Puppies to the forefront of American rock music. Or maybe it was taking home YouTube’s 2006 Video of the Year Honors for their Free Hugs concept “video postcard” which featured the band’s first single “All the Same.” Either Way, Shimon Moore, Emma Anzai, and Mark Goodwin have carved out quite a niche for themselves ever since reaching the states with their 2007 debut ‘Dressed Up As Life’, hauling more than 150,000 units of the trio’s rookie effort. After Sick Puppies took the necessary time to grieve the loss of Shimon Moore’s mother, the band settled in to sketch out album two. Working through the winter and early spring, Sick Puppies concocted ‘Tri-Polar’, the group’s latest offering produced by Skidd Mills, Tim James, et al. Listen for “You’re Going Down”, the first single off ‘Tri-Polar’ on your local rock station. Catch Sick Puppies headlining this summer with guests Hurt and The Veer Union.

The Good: ‘Tri-Polar’ begins its antithetical scrape with the incendiary “War”, driven by rumbling, down-tuned riffage and the fully involved snarling of Shim Moore. The pleasantly titled “I Hate You” houses dark, atmospheric verses underpinned by a meaty bass tone, which explode at the song’s choruses, detonated by stern quarter-note chug-a-lugs and capped off with sharp, fierce resolves that come full circle for a bombastic finale. “Riptide” crashes ashore with the beautiful opening line, “You all hate your children/they’re too fat to feed”. Breezy and socially conscious, “Riptide” boasts a rhythmic chorus chockfull of chromatic punches. Lead batter “You’re Going Down” seethes throughout its verses before erupting into riotous choruses, a pairing made fluid courtesy of Mr. Moore’s sage delivery. Following a sonic, enveloping bridge, “You’re Going Down” simply, yet effectively, drops out into silence, after offering a palate refresher of its chorus without going through all the motions. Lady E kick-starts “Odd One” with 6/8 bass play, bolstered by gentle guitar strums. “Odd One” grows up to be not only soaring and hulky but a brainiac as well, thanks to the reverse dynamics heard in its chunky, brilliant bridge. The throbbing roar of “So What I Lied” might be the best ‘Dressed Up As Life’ refresher on ‘Tri-Polar’. “So What I Lied” hosts an epic bridge, where an all-star nu-metal riff is coupled with tribal drum beats and frosted with an angelic re-entry into the song’s pulse. Pressed for time? Maybe a little pissed off? Get your ass from 3:04 to 3:22 of “So What I Lied”, enjoy, and thank me later. “Survive” survives its three minute jubilee by keeping the sizzle jumpin’-jumpin’ from top to bottom. Strategically fogging up and burying Shim’s voice in the mix a touch gives “Survive” an added tightness, which unravels in a bright, flourishing chorus. Roiling and toe-tapping, “Should’ve Known Better” is a slave to the downbeat, a simply stylish cut with a stunningly sexy outro. “Maybe” is painted in a lush, ambient coat, the ethereal track’s character rounded out with loads of good, dramatic foreshadowing, a sun-kissed chorus, and a hopeful, for-the-better attitude. Don’t walk away from “Don’t Walk Away”, because although quite folky and a smooth, melancholic experience, “Don’t Walk Away” still encapsulates Sick Puppies’ signature jilted angst. Hop until you drop with the bouncy “Master Of the Universe”. The synergy of bassist Emma Anzai and Mark Goodwin is impressive, each perfectly matching the other’s double-strokes. I most love the direction Sick Puppies take with “Master Of the Universe”—instead of striking with their usual chip-on-the-shoulder, the three focus on a creating a colorful melody and an eclectic core, a success completed with a prog-ish ending that flat out rules. ‘Tri-Polar’ has a definite sleeper in “In It For Life”. All four minutes of the penultimate number are drenched in an underlying catchiness that is hard to ignore, offering a sound that is equal parts, fresh, quirky, and smart; if you hear only one thing from ‘Tri-Polar’, make sure it’s the finale of “In It For Life.” Sick Puppies close the book on their sophomore opus with the porcelain Shim/Emma duet “White Balloons”. Bursting with a bevy of prog-rock nuances, vibrant rhetoric, and absolutely superior dynamics, “White Balloons” could quickly become one of the most celebrated and respected pieces of Sick Puppies’ repertoire. Not once does “White Balloons” sound calculated, coached, or influenced, a bracing, all-natural stream of consciousness that retires ‘Tri-Polar’ humbly, yet full of savvy.

The Bad: By the time the bridge of “War” arrives, you might feel just the same way Sick Puppies seem to: lost and not too interested in what’s going on. “I Hate You” is not a bad song, just a boring, uninspiring song that we’ve all heard before. “Riptide” is Sick Puppies’ finest rendition of “Brain Stew”, and do you really want to rehash another band rehashing “Brain Stew”? Regardless, the dynamics of “Riptide” would have benefitted greatly from running with the ambient segues of both the bridge as well as the final chorus. One of Shim’s rare vocal flaws arises out of “Odd One”, where his sudden rise in pitch feels too abrupt, too late. I find the bridge of “Survive” to be rather peculiar, a progression mirrored in the outro for a giant letdown, especially after Shimon’s cry, “Now bring this fuckin’ place down!” Make sure you drive home “Don’t Walk Away” before you drive onward through ‘Tri-Polar’, and you may notice that a certain Incubus classic seems to drive this song. Overall, ‘Tri-Polar’ is just okay, nothing special, not terrible, but not amazing.

Bottomline: Sick Puppies do their thing on ‘Tri-Polar’ and I have to hand it to the band for reaching within themselves, pulling out their blood, sweat, desire, hardship, and heartbreak, and balling it up into 46 minutes of raw, impassioned, adrenaline-filled feral emotion. Too bad ‘Tri-Polar’ is not nearly as moving as Sick Puppies make it out to be.

TuneLab Rating: 6.5 out of 10