Sick Puppies – Connect
Record Label: Capitol
Release Date: July 16th 2013
In every band’s career, there are a couple of records that aren’t as well-received as others. It’s usually just one or two, but these records aren’t as popular as the rest of their discography, for reasons that are quite understandable. Either the music itself just wasn’t good as their older or newer material, there was a member change that ended up being quite significant, or the band did something different on the record that they’ve never done before. Sometimes, these kinds of records can be a band’s new record, which can lead it to be a disappointment. And ultimately, that’s how I’d describe Australian hard-rock/alternative rock trio Sick Puppies' fourth record Connect – disappointing. That doesn’t mean it’s awful, and honestly, I have mixed feelings on this record. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it, either. There are things I like, but there are things I don’t. That’s how I am with most records, actually; I like things about it, but there are things I don’t as well. Some records I love, but others I don’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them, but the things I didn’t like don’t outweigh the things I do. This is one of those albums. The things I like about it don’t really counteract the things I don’t. At least not enough for me to really love this record. I want to love this record, but there are too many songs that just don’t do anything for me, along with some really odd songs that I don’t know how to feel about. There are some great songs on here, however. They’re sprinkled throughout the record as a whole, so if there’s one good thing about the record itself, it’s that it’s worth a proper listen, because the gems are hidden within the cave, so to speak. I want to love this record, I really do. It’s got everything going for it – vocalist/guitarist Shimon Moore is the top of his game, and his guitarwork is pretty solid throughout, bassist Emma Anzai’s bass playing is solid, although there aren’t any bass “solos” that she’s known for in the past, but she does contribute some vocals here and there, and drummer Mark Goodwin does provide a nice backbone with his impressive drumming throughout. It’s just the songs themselves fall flat, whether it’s Moore’s lackluster lyrics, or the strange decisions the band makes throughout.
First thing’s first, though, let’s talk about the good things. As I mentioned, every member’s playing is really solid. They do their jobs nicely, and play their instruments nicely as well. On a few songs, it really shows. You don’t have to wait too long to hear a “gem” within the record, because intro track “Die to Save You” is a gem. This is a typical Sick Puppies track, well, a typically good track from them. It’s got a nice booming chorus, and rather straightforward instrumentation, but it still works. “Die to Save You” is a very nice opening track, because it does open the record on a very strong note. I wish I could say the record gets stronger, or stays just as strong, but I’d be lying if I did. Thankfully, though, second track and first single “There’s No Going Back” is another strong song, and sounds kinda similar to “Die to Save You.” It’s also quite catchy, too, so those two tracks make a nice one-two punch. Another highlight doesn’t come in until eight track “Connect,” which is the title track. This song is a bit different, being that it’s much softer, with an acoustic guitar serving as the backbone of the track, but it makes Moore’s vocals hit just a bit harder, and the theme of the record really comes into play on this track, which is all about connecting with someone, whether it’s romantic, platonic, artistic, mentally, emotionally, or whatever. It’s all about connections and connecting with people, so on one hand, the record does deliver on that theme, because most of the lyrics are quite relatable, and almost anyone can truly connect with these. That’s the problem, though, and I’ll get to that in a minute. The only two other tracks that really grip me in any way are the last two tracks, “Healing Now,” and “Under a Very Black Sky.” The former is another acoustic track, and another very relatable song. It’s quite straightforward, but still enjoyable. The latter track, though, is really weird. It’s one of the few “strange” tracks on the record that actually works, to some degree. The chorus is a bit odd, but if you can past that, there is really cool instrumentation on this song, especially towards the end.
Now onto the bad parts of this record. It’s not that the record is truly awful, it’s that there are some songs that are either boring or really weird. I did mention those odd songs, and those two songs are fourth track “Gunfight” and tenth track “The Trick the Devil Did.” These songs are both weird in terms of composition, vocally, and lyrically. They both attempt to be catchy with Moore’s sing-song vocals in both of them, but they don’t work. They come off as weird and off-putting. This is an example of a band’s decision that doesn’t quite work. They’re not bad songs, just really weird. Aside from those, the rest of the songs that I didn’t mention suffer from what I call “genericitis.” It just means that a song or record doesn’t do anything for me, and it’s generic in a lackluster or bad way. The songs that are generic on this record aren’t necessarily bad, but lackluster. Specifically songs like “Poison,” “Walking Away,” “Where Did the Time Go,” “Telling Lies,” and “Run” all suffer from genericitis. They’re all rather derivative and boring tracks. They’re not bad, or awful, they’re just nothing I haven’t heard before. While that isn’t always a bad thing, these songs just don’t have anything interesting to keep me listening to them. The one thing that this record lacks is lasting value. There isn’t much of it, except for a few songs. I don’t want to say that this record is bad, but it’s no Tri-Polar (the band's 2007 release), that’s for sure. Either way, there are some solid tracks on here, even if it does fall flat a bit. It’s a bit of a disappointment, but almost every band has a record like this, so I’m sure they’ll bounce back with their next record.