Anthem is a fitting title for Sick of Sarah’s latest release; the EP consists of six songs that were designed to be pop-punk anthems. The Minneapolis-based band has been working on this album for the past five years, during which time they had some lineup changes, left their label and manager, and had some financing trouble. Over those years, they wrote about 30 songs and picked the six best to make up this self-released EP. I have to wonder if they purposely picked the six most homogenous, anthem-y songs and maybe the variety was left on the cutting room floor. Anthem is extremely cohesive: the songs all sound very similar with catchy pop hooks, lead singer Abisha Uhl’s pretty-while-angsty vocals delivering standard pop-punk themes through the lyrics, with a steady background of “oohs” and “aahs” from everyone else in the band. Speaking of the rest of the band, this all-female band is rounded out by Jessie Farmer and Katie Murphy on guitars and backing vocals, Jessica Forsythe on drums and backing vocals, and the newly-added Alexa Wolfe on bass guitar.
There’s no denying that this album is catchy in the same way that Yellowcard was catchy on Vans Warped Tour 2004 (don’t deny it, I was there, too.) It seems fitting that Sick of Sarah was on Warped Tours a few years ago because this stuff fits right in with the Warped Tours of my high school glory days. Sick of Sarah is a lot like Paramore or an angrier Tegan and Sara. The band has been together for 10 years and has a really polished sound, but as mentioned earlier it’s so polished that the songs lack variety. Each song could stand alone as a pop-punk anthem and fit in on a Warped soundtrack from just about any year in the 2000s, but put together their similarity is hard to miss.
The lyrical themes are pop-punk standards. There’s wanting to escape the town you’re in on “Roof Tops,” there’s being labeled as trouble (and leaving town again) on “Bars Full of Strangers,” there’s an anthem on being blind to what’s going on around us on the aptly-titled “Blind,” and there’s being sick on “Contagious.” Plus there’s the one positive song, “Everything Is Beautiful,” which speaks for itself and sounds like it was on an Old Navy store soundtrack in 2005. The opening song, “Stereo,” reminded me of current Weezer in that the lyrics say their motives may be questioned (that SOS may be doing this for the girls or the fame or the cash, but you can kiss their “stereo.”) It also really reminded me of Courtney Love’s “Mono,” except that where Love reminisces about how great records in mono were, SOS celebrates getting their music in stereo. Different generations… But it also harkens back to the many, many, many songs there are about finding solace in your favorite songs. The lyrics to “Contagious” are kind of perplexing. While it has the standard idea of being sick and needing to be cured, Uhl commands “Doctor, come and disinfect me with your summer.” This is one of those cases where I really hope that I’ve misheard the lyrics, because otherwise it sounds like it belongs on the Disney Channel. Later in the song Uhl drops an f-bomb so it will never make it into an episode of Phineas and Ferb.
Clocking in at just 19 minutes, Anthem is a short burst of high-energy, angsty pop-punk. If you attended Warped Tour or shopped in an American Eagle in the early- to mid-2000s, this might make you nostalgic. Otherwise, it’s a fun pop-punk album, but not the most original album you’ve ever heard. I’m really curious to hear more of the 30 songs that were written, I wonder how much variety and depth could be hiding on the cutting room floor.