Album review: Sick Puppies' 'Tri-Polar'
Take a look at the artists who've spent time in the studio with Antonina Armato and Tim James and among the likes of Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens and Aly & AJ and you'll find this L.A.-based hard-rock trio, best known for providing the soundtrack to the hit YouTube video Free Hugs Campaign, which has racked up more than 46 million views.
Sick Puppies' songs seem distinctive only when you consider them in relation to those tween-pop acts; examined as a set of lyrics and chord changes, any of the 13 tracks on "Tri-Polar," the band's second album since relocating here from Australia, could pass for work by such KROQ second-stringers as Shinedown or Theory of a Deadman or Finger Eleven.
Thanks to James and Armato's studio wizardry, though, Sick Puppies sound is another matter: With its crunchy textures and gleaming surfaces, this is post-grunge alpha-male pop-metal for the Imax 3-D era.
In lead single "You're Going Down," recently featured in a series of professional-wrestling spots, singer Shimon Moore flexes his chest-beating bellow over a menacing industrial-disco bass line, while opener "War" lives up to its title (and then some) with a battery of machine-gun drums and laser-beam keyboards. Even closer "White Balloons," which comes on like a folky acoustic shuffle, erupts into solar-swamp pyrotechnics before it's over.
Think of the result as the musical equivalent of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” -- very pretty wrapping for a very empty box.
-- Mikael Wood