Review Summary: The kind of sick that makes an atheist pray for Jesus
Despite how preferable it would seem to be to live in blissful ignorance of the path that modern society has taken and just not care about anything other than your own personal demons, that’s still just what I described it as; blissful ignorance. In the eyes of some, it would be nice to not have to worry about issues such as drug addiction, government corruption, sexual abuse, and suicide. Not everyone sees it that way though. That includes the four guys in Badflower, an up-and-coming rock act from Los Angeles who have already been seeing a great deal of mainstream success, with lead single “Ghost” peaking at #11 on Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart. The song showed an honesty that’s not often seen in the genre’s radio mainstays, and it’s clearly personal with its subject matter, detailing a scenario where the writer attempts suicide multiple times, eventually succeeding to become “the white ghost of the man [he] was meant to be.” The strength of the lead single then led to high hopes for future work, and as far as I’m concerned, OK, I’m Sick
sees Badflower delivering on those hopes.
For an album from a band that’s said on record that they intend to “bring emo back”, there’s a level of depth in OK, I’m Sick
that stretches beyond the boundaries of what you’d expect. When it comes to the music, think of Badflower as a cross between My Chemical Romance and Royal Blood. Like the former, they tackle darker topics in a direct manner and showcase them in a more theatrical format. Like the latter, they derive bits of their sound from the types of bluesy jams that made Led Zeppelin a household name without resorting to plagiarism veiled under the guise of “tribute”, ala Greta Van Fleet. Whether it’s the politically-charged anger of “Die”, the hedonistic urges of “Girlfriend”, or the more moody soundscapes of tracks like “The Jester”, the aforementioned “Ghost”, and closer “Cry”, it’s safe to say the band are carving out their own path while holding on tightly to their influences. Josh Katz and Joey Morrow throw in plenty of interesting licks to keep the momentum going, and the rhythm section, led by Alex Espiritu and Anthony Sonetti, is wonderfully tight and complements Morrow and Katz's guitars well.
If you’re looking for an uplifting album to get out of the doldrums though, beware; the dark is where OK, I’m Sick
lives. In fact, it’s one of the most bleak albums I’ve heard in quite some time. While Badflower may not be “emo” in the traditional sense, it’s not hard to imagine songs like “Ghost” or “x ANA x” working on a Sunny Day Real Estate record with some musical tweaks and more pared-back production. Josh Katz delivers each line with a deep sense of conviction; whether it’s the self-deprecating lines of “The Jester” or the haunting tales of a sexually abusive father in “Daddy”, you can tell he cares a lot about what he’s singing about. On their indictment of Donald Trump in the song “Die”, Katz’s passion overrides the song's immaturity; lines like “impeach the asshole and all of his friends” feel less like a petty jab and more like a real call to arms. “Murder Games” is a scathing take on the meat industry and their rather poor treatment of animals, avoiding the cliches that organizations like PETA rely on while staying blunt about the situation. “Girlfriend” on the other hand is the clear nadir of OK, I'm Sick
as far as maturity is concerned. During that song, Katz and co. are concerned more with fulfilling lustful urges rather than making any truly meaningful statements.
It’s impressive to see this much potential being realized from such a young act. Usually, the relative inexperience of an act like Badflower would seep through a lot more, as has happened in the past with acts like Letlive. Even acts like Nothing More took longer to find their footing and gain success. As it stands currently, OK, I’m Sick
is defined by its relentlessly bleak outlook on the issues of society. It’s also the first of what will hopefully be many more milestones that the band has hit in their career so far. While not quite as openly blues-influenced as prior EP’s such as 2016’s Temper,
that half of their influence is still a significant part of their sound. This album is living proof that while it may be “easier” to live in blissful ignorance and just not care, it’s not the wisest blueprint when it comes to creating a masterpiece like this. Despite how preachy certain songs may come off to some, they could have certainly done a lot worse with how they chose to handle the subjects tackled on this album.