Review Summary: Just Look Around is a passionate display of the anger four men can levy at the world of today and serves as a masterclass in how Hardcore should be done right
Hardcore Punk has always been a genre purely about the message it sends as opposed to the musical integrity it displays. The genre is characterized by a group of young men roaring anthems of hate directed at the government and the society around them whilst carrying their music along at thundering paces to make for one of the most intense and senseless rackets out there. If there were ever a style of music that embodies everything the mainstream public perceives any loud music to be, it would be the Hardcore movement. One of the most acclaimed and successful groups within this genre are New-York based Sick Of It All, formed in 1985 as Hardcore's popularity was slightly waning, they have to date released nine albums with a third release penned in for a 2013 release.
Released before the band achieved any real commercial success, Sick Of It All's sophomore release Just Look Around is often considered by fans of the band to be among their finest works and is an accomplished masterpiece in every sense of the word. It is a short and passionate album that clocks in at twenty seconds short of half an hour and in this space of time the listener is gifted a whirlwind of condensed hatred directed primarily at the Government. It opens with a sample of a US politician claiming "we did not trade weapons for hostages"
before a very heavy riff kicks in that displays exactly what this album is all about in a fantastic manner.
This album is a primal frenzy of musical chaos that focuses more on having a solid rhythm to it than being flashy or particularly inventive, and this vision is executed masterfully by this group of four musicians. The opening song is the longest on the album and even that is shorter than three minutes leaving each track on here very little time to play around with. Instead the album gets straight to the point with quick drumming, chord based riffs that gallop along at an incredible speed for the most part and vocals that consist of nothing more than a man pouring his soul into a microphone. The conviction behind this album is something truly incredible to behold as every song is little more than a passionate display of a group of men that feel pinned down by the Government and the society of their day that has carried through to today and ensures that this is as relevant now as it ever was.
The mid-paced Lookaway
is one of two songs that can be singled out as the best of the bunch with its middling pace and chorus that will stick in the mind for a long time after. Hardcore Punk is a genre that could be considered highly thought provoking with the ideologies that are pressed upon us with such hatred behind them and this song is one of the best examples of this out there. Whilst no song on here is quite a match for many of the songs off of fellow Hardcore band Refused's The Shape Of Punk To Come
, they are all fantastic examples of how Hardcore Punk should be done properly. This is a harrowing trip through the mind of four aggressive-natured men that is guaranteed to affect whoever may listen to it. Shut Me Out
is another song that has a lot to praise about it with the chorus being used to close it off in masterful fashion with the entire group screaming "Don't you shut me out
to great effect.
The one major flaw that can be leveled at this release is that it is not particularly varied. The album is primarily one of blistering pace with a few mid-paced numbers scattered throughout that attempt to break up the flow but do not really do a particularly good job at it. The length of the album really does work in its favor as if it was much longer it would really break the formula that the band went for with this release but it still suffers from a lack of variety. The guitar solos feel slightly shoehorned into this album and unnecessary for it and the album does not have enough moments that leap out at the listener as something to be amazed by.
Just Look Around if an excellent display of unrestrained anger and passion in musical form that is rightfully considered among the best in this band's works and if Hardcore Punk is your genre then this comes highly recommended. For those looking to break into Hardcore Punk then this is also recommended as it is a fairly good indication as to how the genre sounds and ranks up there among my personal favorite albums in the genre. If you are a fan of this band then kindly go back and re-listen to this in preparation for their upcoming tenth studio album and be cautiously optimistic as this shows the band has real talent.