Revivalism is arguably more key in modern music than it ever has been, not only in evidencing the cyclical nature of pretty much all music, but providing the most stable foundation possible upon which to build. It’s why the resurgence of grunge has been so significant, moving away from the dreary post-grunge of the 2000s to its emo fusions to capture the power and melancholy that was originally intended.
As for Newcastle’s Sick Joy, they’re a different proposition yet again, favouring a purer approach to grunge with the slightest hint of traditional alt-rock to taste. The result is Amateurs, a firecracker of a debut EP that is heavily indebted to sounds of the past, but never feels stale or uninspired. Rather, this is grunge with the meat and muscle left in, and even at only four tracks, it’s a hell of a strong opening salvo that really can captivate when it wants to.
That primarily comes in a supreme lack of bells and whistles that would ultimately be superfluous, and instead doubling down on the essentials of riffs and melody. Thankfully Sick Joy are perfectly proficient at each, and Amateurs never outstays it’s welcome because of this. Senses might be a relative false start, but that’s really only in comparison to later tracks like Stumbler and especially Karma And Ketamine, both of which are able to capture the Nirvana approach of pop sensibilities backed by punching guitar lines and seismic basslines. And yes, the Nirvana comparisons are far too easy to make, especially with vocalist Mykl’s lackadaisical delivery that can explode when it wants to, but it’s not as if Sick Joy are fighting against them. If anything, Amateurs is as close to that original framework as you’re likely to get, and even if the earth-shattering resonance that comes from a band who literally changed the face of music for good isn’t there, you wouldn’t be too hard pressed to say this is the next best thing.
They’re bold words, but Sick Joy’s steadfast embrace of the genre means they are justified. This is no-frills rock music that’s not trying to follow any trends or actively become the next big thing, but that’s revealed to be its biggest strength. Amateurs finds numerous ways to impress on just the basics alone, and that’s seriously telling for a fairly lowkey debut that hasn’t had that much buzz beforehand. Even so, Sick Joy are already running in terms of momentum, and it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on where they go next.
For fans of: Nirvana, Pixies, Dinosaur Pile Up
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Amateurs’ by Sick Joy is out now on SaySomething Records.