The phrase “The best Weezer album since Pinkerton,” used by critics to describe any time a band with strong Weezer influences makes a good album has been overused to the point of cliché, so I won’t use it here… but I very easily could. Traces of that band have been evident in the Sidekicks’ music even back when they were playing relatively gruff pop-punk, but now that they’ve settled into a leaner power-pop sound with their third full-length, Awkward Breeds, the influence is almost overwhelming on some songs, in the best way possible.
It’s not all Weezer worship, however. Songs like “DMT” and “Daisy” which bookend the album, are both speedier than the bulk of the group’s last full-length, 2009’s fantastic Weight of Air, and wouldn’t be out of place on their Sam EP.
While there isn’t a bad song to be found on Awkward Breeds, some songs are quite noticeably better than others, and “Incandescent Days” is a clear standout, and showcases some of the finest songwriting we’ve heard from the Sidekicks yet. “And the audience is loud now / But there’s no sound…” begins one of the strongest vocal hooks on the album, and indeed one of the best in the Sidekicks’ career. The songs shifts from a quiet indie ballad to a bouncy rock stomper and back again in the span of three-and-a-half minutes. It’s a creative triumph for the band, and one of the best tunes you’ll hear all year.
Another standout, and perhaps the most overtly Weezer-influenced, is “The Whale and Jonah;” it really does sound like a lost track from the Blue Album era. Vocalist/Guitarist Steve Ciolek’s inflection of the “Don’t ask / Won’t tel l /I can’t believe” chorus is unmistakably Rivers Cuomo. The track, the album’s longest, will take you right back to 1994.
Perhaps the most overtly catchy song on Awkward Breeds is the midtempo rocker “Baby, Baby.” I don’t know what “When the waves rush in through your door / Can’t use those golden legs anymore” is supposed to mean, but it makes for one hell of a singalong. The group is just as compelling when they quiet things down however, most notably on “1940’s Fighter Jet” and “Looker.”
Weight of Air was a tough act to follow, but the Sidekicks have done a bang-up job. By wearing their influences on their sleeves more than they have in the past, as well as examining what has worked best in the past in their own music, they have created arguably their strongest work yet. Fans of strong hooks and great rock music in general should grab onto the Sidekicks now, because this band is going places.