The Sidekicks - Weight of Air (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Sidekicks

Weight of Air (2009)

Red Scare

Weight of Air starts out with the incredibly off-key wailing of "Let It Breathe" -- not the band's finest hour on first spin. Nonetheless, it's incredibly reminiscent of the opening track on The Greatest Story Ever Told and as many consider that the Lawrence Arms' finest work I expect this album to be received in a similar way. The album is a huge step up for the Cleveland band -- they've outgrown wearing the punk rock influences on their sleeve and instead have crafted a sound that they sound far more comfortable with. Here they stand out from their peers, crafting their own sound by weaving together the poppy aspects of mid-'90s alternative radio fare with the crunchy grunginess of "midwestern rock" like the Replacements and the Weakerthans' faster moments. Tracks like "Looking for Love" are so incredibly catchy you're going to wish this had come out in May so you could spend the whole summer singing it. There's a feeling of '70s garage jangle in some of the songs -- it's not overwhelming, but it's there. The gruff affectations from the band are gone -- what bit of gravel there is left on this record feels natural and well-placed. Any folk ramblings the band might have feel more Weakerthans than they do Chuck Ragan.

But as good as the music is -- and make no mistake, it is simply amazing -- no band succeeds on technical competency alone. Thankfully, the lyrics cash the check the music writes. There's little, if any, attempts at overt political stylings here. Instead you are met with incredibly heartfelt and intricate lyrics with booming choruses and sing-alongs. This is an album whose lyrics, when read on paper, aren't intricate and long-winded; they're simple, to-the-point and sound best when wailed over top of the intricate and catchy music laid down on this disc. Nowhere does this wailing sound better than on the title track "Weight of Air"; after its intense, Fugazi-esque buildup, you can hear the vocalist's voice start to warble just slightly and you just absolutely love it. It's just slightly off-key in the right way and would have been so easy to cover up, but it's there, and that moment helps to make that last song feel so much more triumphant than it would have otherwise.

Describing music that isn't simply a clone of other bands is hard -- fairly impossible, in fact. While Weight of Air is no genre-defining masterpiece it definitely is a breath of fresh air in its scene. It's more rock than it is punk, without being quite as self-conscious as a band like the Hold Steady. In fact, it's far more enjoyable because of the simple, raw ethic that shows through on this record. Refreshingly, there's no drunken punk rock worshipping or overdone production here -- it's just four kids from northern Ohio making music that they'd like to listen to.

Highly recommended. I'd say it's the best album I've heard this year -- punk, rock or otherwise.