Doesn’t Quite Connect
In Australia, the ’90s arrived late. Its grunge scene burnt briefly and brightly with Silverchair in 1995, after Kurt Cobain had already passed on. But that didn’t stop countrymates Sick Puppies from riding their slick, frayed coattails. In 1997, “All the Same” grazed the charts, but those who remember the song do not do so fondly. Sick Puppies was forgettable and forgotten, but that never stopped this trio from making music. On their fourth full-length album and first since 2009, Connect highlights the bands strengths while at the same time exposing what kept them from topping the charts.
Seeking to bridge the worlds of pop-metal and post-grunge, Connect opens with “Die to Save You,” beginning with a promising heavy-as-shit riff. Shimon Moore’s lead vocals are accessible but not wimpy, and the harmonies with bassist/vocalist Emma Anzai on the infectious chorus imply a promising turn for Sick Puppies. Unfortunately, that changes on the second song and first single, “There’s No Going Back.” It’s disarmingly poppy with cutesy lyrics and “whoa-oh”s, and it’s such a change from the previous gem that it makes one fearful for what’s next.
What’s next is a continuation of this back and forth, with some ballads thrown in for good measure. “Walk Away” pounds effectively through the intro and chorus, but “Gunfight” is silly, with a combination of southern rock and faux-Native American catcalling that does not work (despite the cleverness of combining “cowboys” and “Indians” in one song). The back half of Connect is a little more subdued than the beginning, such as on the sweet title track, which could have been an outtake from a Taylor Swift album.
Sick Puppies are at their best when the band mixes catchy hooks with metal compositions, but somewhere along the line they were told that that style does not sell records, so they peppered Connect with uber-sugary nuggets that distract from their better work. If you are interested in this album, listen to samples first; you might save yourself about five bucks.