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Album Review

The members of Sick City would probably refuse the invitation, but their 2007 album, Nightlife, may just earn them guest passes into the relatively exclusive club of Canadian mainstream rockers inhabited by the likes of Three Days Grace, Theory of a Deadman, and presided over by the world conquering Nickelback. At their best, Sick City songs like "Antoinette," "Islands," and "In the Millions" possess a similar cache of radio-friendly hooks wed to tough hard rock foundations as many of those bands' big hits; yet they also ride a melancholy undercurrent that's far more vulnerable and intriguing than those same groups' cocksure, oftentimes tiresomely puerile frat-boy machismo. A sign of greater songwriter versatility, this emotional breadth also pays dividends in hardcore and emo-inflected, modern power pop creations like "The Heist" and "Tora, Tora, My Dear Tora," as well as the surprisingly palatable, piano-enhanced ballad "City Lights." On the negative tip, "XX & XY" loses itself in unnecessarily busy percussion, "Killing Ourselves to Feel" falls flat on its face during an unconvincingly executed group vocal section, the title song is really just a lost snippet from some secret soundtrack that really should have stayed that way, and — you're gonna think this is crazy — but "Turning Heads" has the same stuttering rhythms and '80s-flavored chorus as Hall & Oates' "Adult Education," if only it had been written by Fall Out Boy. Throughout its and ups and downs, though, there's no denying that Sick City bring a much needed thoughtfulness to good old-fashioned song craft at a time when so much commercially conscious rock music is soiled to the bone by emo and screamo's cheap sentimentality and transparent shock tactics. Whether the bouncers of consumer acceptance will see these merits and part their velvet ropes for Sick City is another story that remains to be seen.


Formed: 2005 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Formed in early 2005, Winnipeg, Manitoba's Sick City skipped a lot of the usual new-band grunt work and went straight to the (semi) big time -- almost immediately landing slots opening for such acts as Papa Roach, It Dies Today, Bedlight for Blue Eyes, and From Autumn to Ashes, as well as touring with the Taste of Chaos and Warped package shows. Their five-song EP, Where Do We Go from Here, offered up a promising start and caught the ear of Canadian label Smallman Records, which signed them up for...
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Nightlife, Sick City
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