I listen to a lot of music. A LOT of music! However, I still miss out on a lot of bands as there are only so many hours in a day I can listen to tunes! Thankfully, a lot of these bands crop up on my radar eventually, like Joyce Manor did last year. And so to 2015 and already I’ve had the aural pleasure of The Sidekicks’ new long player, Runners in the Nerved World.
Ohio’s The Sidekicks’ first release with Epitaph, Runners in the Nerved World, is an accomplished album driven by a late-90’s pop-rock aesthetic. Nice.
This quartet from Columbus, Ohio have been around for a few years now, having had three previous albums on various indie labels – notably Red Scare Records who have had such luminary acts like The Menzingers under their belt. However, this new release is their first for Epitaph Records and I have a sneaky feeling that CEO Brett Gurewitz sort of knows a thing or two about music, given that under his wing are bands such as Rancid, Raised Fist, Every Time I Die, The Menzingers (you lot again!), Joyce Manor, The Lawrence Arms, Bad Religion (well, derrrrrr!!! – Ed) – you get my drift! A good selection of bands across different genres.
So, to the album and I’ll just step up onto my soapbox for a bit, just to preach “The Gospel According To Keith”!
I don’t know what it is about producers who grab hold of an idea and then play havoc with it. In this case, it’s the vocal production that I feel has just let the album down a tad. It sounds like the vocals have been filtered out too much, to create that airy, soft lilt in singer Steve Ciolek’s voice that does create a great ambience for certain tracks but NOT for the whole album. It took until the last verse of the fourth track, The Kid that Broke his Wrist, that my ears pricked up as I could actually hear a ‘true’ voice, as if he was talking right next to me, but that was the only moment on the whole album.
It’s like listening to Dark Side of the Moon through a $100 stereo – no depth and just a ‘tinny’ sound, which just exasperates me. I don’t know if it is the ‘Summer of Love’ this year but yet again that surfie-rock-kinda-feel is emulating from this album and a lot of the vocal feel/production really reminds me of early The Drums, which can only be a good thing, so maybe I should just pull my head in!
Stepping down, having listened to the album about a dozen times, I can report that on the whole this is a damn good album. Opener Hell is Warm started badly, as I was thinking that it was going to be a bit of a folkie kind of sound, but forty seconds in and frenetic guitar strumming kicked in, shortly followed with a nifty second guitar riff, smash of drums and away it went, which didn’t let up until the last note of the album. Tracks Everything in Twos and Summer brings you closer to Satan screams The Drums – soft background drum beat, great vocal range complete with “oh-ah-ah, oh-ah-ah” refrains, subtle guitar riffs, harmonies etc.
The Gospel according to The Sidekicks: “To me the appeal of punk rock was that there weren’t any rules…..Now the word ‘punk’ has changed so much. I still like the whole spirit of punk rock, but it’s crazy to spend so many years on the road playing with so many bands that all sound exactly the same, like they are all working within this very rigid formula. A lot of our music now feels like a reaction to that, to having been around that for so many years.”
I think this is a polite way of the guys saying that there’s a fair bit of commercialism within that genre, for which I whole-heartedly agree (Real Friends’ Maybe this place is the same… is a good example from last year and ANYTHING All Time Low puts out!!). This album certainly follows their sentiments, hinting more at a late-90’s emo-pop/rock style; there isn’t a word or note spat out in punk angst – just pensive, wistful, reflection of life’s normal trial and tribulations played out with minimalistic guitar, save the soft, underlying riffs à la The Smiths, a lot of floor tom plodding beats à la The Psychedelic Furs and an unusual range of vocals that’s up and down every second, as well as great backing harmonies.
I love the way the songs are musically structured with tracks bouncing along, slowing down with drifting vocals and then banging on again with glimpses of aforementioned influences. There are also slower songs with a tip of the cap to influences like The Cure and The Butthole Surfers (!!), to break the album up, especially with the compressed, reverberation guitar feel on album closer All Things Run.
All in all, two very big thumbs up to Runners in the Nerved World… or should it have be entitled “Shoegazers of the World, Unite”…?? The album has just been released on iTunes, so guess I’ll be off buying the LP somewhere this week to line Epitaph’s pockets….again! The band have also hinted at an impending tour down under, so it will be interesting to see how different the vocals come across in a live situation. I await with bated breath….
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