Hardcore isn’t exclusively a New York phenomenon, but it is appropriate to the gritty city. Sick Of It All have been doing it loud and proud for 32 years, and are now on their twelfth album. If I were to sum up their appeal in one word, it would be attitude.
“Waking Up the Sleeping Dragon” does not deviate from the norm. It’s loud, fast, punkish, hardcore in chorus, hard and non stop. The mosh pit is well and truly whirling and twirling, pushing and shoving from the opening “Inner Vision”. It’s amazing how Sick Of It All get so much into one song. You’ll never get a ballad but you will get aggression, defiance, bass guitar rumblings, choruses and changes of tempo, all in the setting of a rough and dangerous scene. The songs are solid and anthemic – it’s hard not to join in and shout “break free!” on “The Snake (Break Free)”. There is a rare break from the usual complexity with “Bull’s Anthem”, which emphasises the anthemic over the aggressiveness. I didn’t like that so much, but even it cannot be accused of lacking energy. More relevant and hard hitting is “Robert Moses was a Racist”, which follows. Robert Moses was an urban developer in New York. The song exudes bile and venom even suggests tongue-in-cheek that “Bobby” had something to do with the demise of the Dodgers. I guess this is John Cooper Clarke traded up to New York hardcore.
I do like the energy and anger of these anthems. One violent rant leads to the next. It’s not pretty but it is entertaining. I do however find it merges into a blur as we work between areas of discontent, but I did particularly like “Beef Between Vegans”. But other than a few bits of growly guitar and the odd bit of neat build-up as on “Bad Hombres”, it’s quite uniform. And those angry choruses, as we get on “Work the System” and “The New Slavery”, are just designed to rouse the crowd.
If you like your rants hardcore and punkish, this is for you. The anger is there to enjoy and its anarchy and energy make it liberating. Really, this is for a live setting, as it’s difficult to transport oneself into this grey and grim world if you’re in it or at least in a flea bit of a concert hall with the anger resounding around the people in the room. But as ever Sick Of It All do manage to wake that sleeping dragon and would probably wake the dead if they wanted to.
(7/10 Andrew Doherty)