If you’re looking for a B-side to your summer, Duff McKagan’s Loaded’s Sick is it. I say B-side because while Sick may not be the first album you reach for this summer, it’ll be the one that lurks in the background, the one you prefer and the one you keep in constant rotation. Not to discount the success that Duff McKagan has had with Velvet Revolver, but it’s a shame that former members of great bands who make a go at it for themselves get shoved in a corner and relegated to exist in rock and roll purgatory because amazing albums, such as Sick, often go overlooked and undervalued.
For those who are hoping that Duff McKagan’s Loaded is aiming to recreate the sound of pre-Chinese Democracy Guns N’ Roses, this isn’t the album for you. If, however, you want a simple, back-to-the-basics rock album with catchy riffs, traces of punk roots, and junk guitar, then Sick might be your salvation. Lyrically, Sick is an album that makes social commentaries (“Sick”), talks about addiction (“The Slide”), and praises the power of love (“IOU” and “Wasted Heart”). Musically, it’s sonic and slick with moments of endearment. Yes, Sick has grit, but for an album coming out of rainy Seattle it`s surprisingly hook-driven and L.A. sounding at times; you could almost say it`s Cheap Trick-ish, but with more punk sensibilities. All in all, it sounds cathartic and retrospective.
Duff sounds fantastic on vocals and on guitar, the latter of which approaches the sound of a bluesy Johnny Thunders on “Wasted Heart.” Although four of the tracks on Sick come from the 2008 EP release Wasted Heart, there are no gaps or jerky movements in its fluidity, except for “Blind Date Girl,” which sounds out of place with its horn section. Duff’s supporting cast (Mike Squires, Jeff Rouse, and Geoff Reading) is solid and tight, but this is clearly McKagan’s show. Sick`s first single, “Flatline,” is another criticism of society, but there`s just a bit too much radio-friendly pop in it for my taste.
Summer is about being stripped down; stripped-down girls, stripped -weekends, and stripped-down rock. Sick is stripped-down rock that you can feel in your groin. It`s the kind of noise you want blaring from your car on hot summer days.