Review Summary: Aussie trio take a detour and finally find their sound, resulting in a rather impressive & consistent album containing good musicianship, hooks & catchy sing-along qualities.
Just like people will often have to move overseas to further their career in whatever their chosen trade is, musical artists will have to do exactly the same thing. Sick Puppies are a trio originally from Sydney - Australia who have now been plying their trade for almost a decade, yet are still relatively young. Beginning as a cross between the rap-rock of Limp Bizkit, the grunge of Silverchair and a little bit of Alt-Metal thrown into the mix, their debut album ('Welcome To The Real World') and subsequent EP ('Fly') contained many weaknesses and were efforts that were sure to date rather quickly.
The band now predominantly bases themselves in America. In Sick Puppies case, it is a country which not only allows their style to be appreciated more (as their style of music is not especially popular to the masses in Australia), but also allows their music to be controlled and produced much better than previously. The resultant album 'Dressed Up As Life' ultimately proves their decision to be a successful one as the improvements shown here are arguably one of the biggest leaps forward by a band over the course of a few years.
Right from the opening track 'My World', Sick Puppies impress and show the positive steps they have taken in multiple facets of their music. This 2nd single is very well structured and produced in piecing together all the band's musical elements. Harmonies are apparent in the almost spoken-word verses, while the melodic chorus is also very good. It proves that lead man Shimon Moore has finally got his at times cringe-worthy vocals under control and the results are pleasing. Even here, when he gets all intense, (the "kicking... screaming" end of the chorus as well as the end of track screaming) it is not over-used and ends up all the more effective because of it.
The other album highlight is 1st single (track 6) 'All The Same'. A ballad of sorts, this is also excellently structured. It effectively begins acoustically up until the 2nd chorus when it is joined by an electric guitar to take things up a notch. Once more, controlled vocals for the most part are successful, while the intensity in Moore's voice as the track nears its conclusion suit the relationship break-up lyrics perfectly. Up-tempo tracks 'Cancer' and 'Deliverance' are highlighted by very good choruses, but also contain good musicianship all around. What are especially likeable about these 2 songs are the way drums, guitar & bass all get their moments to shine, but are not allowed to over-power the song (similarly to what occurred on the band's earlier releases).
While the album is arguably front-loaded, there are some interesting tracks towards the end of the album also. 'Howards Tale' may top them as it is dark and moody to effectively add some variety to the mix. It also begins a trio of songs where the lyrical theme of parenting appears to play a strong part, as it is followed by the strangely catchy 'A$$hole Father' and the weird mish-mash of 'Issues'. Also effective in providing something different is the closer 'The Bottom', which reminds me very much of a few tracks off The Used's 'Lies for the Liars' in that there is a nice hook to it that will likely have you singing along to the catchy chorus.
Radio rock is also accounted for here by tracks 4 and 11. While they both may be viewed a little ho-hum in isolation, 'What Are You Looking For' and 'Anywhere But Here' should grow on you as their choruses are both especially catchy. The band actually pull off the sound surprisingly well as nothing in their past has suggested a more standard mainstream feel at all. In a way, these type of songs somehow provide good variety and that is what is maybe the most pleasing aspect about 'Dressed Up As Life'; The fact that even the album track's are decent and do not drag the album down.
To say that this is a much improved effort from Sick Puppies is an understatement. While the band's weaknesses still sneak a look in every now and then, the production and overall control exhibited by the band keep their appearances to a minimum. There is almost a leaning towards emo rock present here and while non-fans of the genre may still feel this is rather average, 'Dressed Up As Life' should please a wider variety of music lovers than previous releases by the band. There is simply too much good musicianship, hooks and catchy sing-along qualities to ignore. This could be a band on the rise and finally making their mark on the scene simply because they have found their sound.
Recommended Tracks: All The Same, My World, Cancer & The Bottom.