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The Sickly Hecks release dynamic new album, ‘Try and Fail’

Vintage record player against a yellow background.
Collegian Album Reviews Graphic (Katrina Clasen | The Collegian)

The Sickly Hecks2021 release “Try and Fail” presents itself as dynamic and danceable alt-rock album while giving a raw, personal perspective on issues like mental health, substance abuse and broken relationships.

Self-described “sad boy rock,”  The Sickly Hecks are an amalgamation of punk, indie and alternative with occasional tangents into psychedelic guitar solos. The album moves seamlessly through these different styles, both within individual songs and throughout the project as a whole, providing a cohesive front-to-back listen that keeps fans entertained.

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Opening with a lone guitar riff drowned in fuzz on the song “Underwear,” the album quickly sweeps the listener away into its mosh pit-like atmosphere. The distant shouts of the background vocals and driving rhythm section give the listener the impression it was written to be played hard, fast and loud.

Thematically, the track encompasses the not-so-delicate balance of anxiety, intoxication and excitement that will hit close to home for many avid partygoers.”

“It’s a total party song, even if it is kind of anti-party,” The Sickly Hecks wrote on their YouTube lyric video description for the song. “Like you’re at a sick house show but your ex showed up and you’re on psychedelics. You’re gonna mosh, but you’re also pretty stressed out about it.”

Thematically, the track encompasses the not-so-delicate balance of anxiety, intoxication and excitement that will hit close to home for many avid partygoers. 

This theme of navigating mental health and relationship issues continues throughout; simply put, it’s a breakup album. Rather than falling into the trope of a black and white “you hurt me, I hate you” narrative, the band explores the complexities of a toxic relationship in a genuine light.

Tracks like “Crawl,” “Bloody Mouth,” “Make me Mad”  and “Grey Matter” address the conflict of watching a partner go through the anguish of addiction and depression while battling those same demons yourself.

The minimal bass line and melodic vocals on “Bloody Mouth” transition to an intense and visceral sound in its final quarter, with vocals that could be taken straight from the mouth of Pierce the Veil’s Vic Fuentes. The hardcore emo sound this song takes on in its final minute is disappointingly left unexplored in the rest of the album, although “Hissy Fit” comes close. 

Regardless of this relatively short exploration into hardcore, “Bloody Mouth” and “Crawl” express an amount of complex and genuine emotion that makes them stand out when looking at the album and its meaning in depth. Collectively, the album tells a clear narrative about two people that feed off each other’s destructive tendencies, but these songs in particular give an in-depth account of how addiction can affect a relationship.

“Just be Fun” uses a beachy indie setting and a catchy, easygoing tune to list grievances about a partner, following a more typical breakup song structure than most of the album. Although the lyrics are fairly surface level compared to other tracks, it fulfills its place on the album as an upbeat jam approachable for mainstream audiences.

“Four Years” is a modern take on the pop-punk sound with hints of The Airborne Toxic Event that takes on the age-old problem of growing up, leaving your wild 20-somethings and feeling aimless in the real world (ironically something many pop-punk bands seem to ignore with each out-of-touch release).

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Nowhere does the influence of 2010s indie bands such as The National feel more apparent than the song “Satellite” with its simplistic palm-muted guitar and monotone vocals. The pre-chorus synthesizer riff screams new wave, an influence cited by the band in the song’s description on its lyric video. As a closing track, “Satellite” works to tame the rowdy crowd the album was intended for, although it runs just a second too long instead of ending on that strong final bass note or leaving us with a satisfying final cymbal crash. 

In its entirety, “Try and Fail” lives and breathes the Fort Collins DIY scene, embodying the energy of a live performance but with polished production quality. By placing these songs in a contained setting, the listener has more time to digest the complex and deeply personal subjects hidden beneath a layer of distortion and Raymond Suny’s pouty vocals. The album has a campy rock ‘n’ roll sound that gives it a sense of playfulness and fun, balancing out some of the more depressing subject matter contained in its lyrics. 

Although recording and production were started during the COVID-19 pandemic, the album was written to be performed live. From the first track to the last, each sudden burst of energy seems intended to facilitate a mosh in the crowded garage of Hotel Hillcrest or the back room of the Downtown Artery. It’s a shame this album had to be left unaccompanied by a release show — it would have been one to remember.

Still, it’s a beacon of hope for the local music scene and its patrons, a reminder that, underneath its comatose state, the community remains alive.

Max Hogan can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @macnogan.

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