Friday, June 12, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Sick Sad World - Fear and Lies

Genres like garage rock and power pop are so reliant on certain conventions that it's surprising songwriters still manage to make them feel fresh, but even within the confines of an insanely familiar format there's still plenty of room for artists to inject their own personalities and interests into the mix. That's especially true of solo acts, like Sick Sad World mastermind Jake Jones, who largely colors inside the lines on Fear and Lies, the project's first full-length, but still manages to impress thanks to the record's quirky concoction of acid-damaged skate culture, self-deprecating humor and some incredibly hooky songs.

Using little more than a guitar and a drum machine, Jones starts Fear and Lies out strong with the lovelorn instant earworm "Skateboarding Girl" and rarely if ever loses steam across the album's eleven tracks. The rest cover a similar kind of teenage territory as the first, from being an outcast, like on the surf-inflected "Alone All the Time", to searching for your own identity, as with the individualist, vaguely sci-fi "Being Weird", but whatever the subject matter Jones never descends into self-pity or takes himself too seriously. Despite some bummer themes, Fear and Lies is a consistently fun album.

Between the catchy tunes and the fact that it clocks in at a lean 35 minutes, the release, out now on Help Yourself Records, doesn't lose its somewhat dazed appeal on repeat listens, but its best moments, such as the glammy strut of "Keep It Real" or the surprisingly heavy closer "Stay Gold", stand just fine on their own, and should easily find favor with the Burger crowd. The Seattle-based Jones doesn't bring many new musical ideas to the table with Fear and Lies, but his particular spin on these well-worn rock 'n' roll sounds proves to be infectiously enjoyable.

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