Release Date: Jan 20, 2015
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Unless you completely checked out of indie rock between 1996 and 2006, Steve Ciolek’s voice will sound very, very familiar. It’s a high, boyish wail first attributed to Doug Martsch and later mainstreamed by James Mercer and Ben Bridwell. And Ciolek isn’t trying to sidestep those warranted comparisons on the Sidekicks’ new record Runners in the Nerved World.
With 2015's Runners in the Nerved World, the Sidekicks' metamorphosis from upstart punk rockers to considerably more restrained indie rockers is complete; while this band never exactly came off like jackbooted hardcore demons, Runners is the sound of a band that's learned to smooth down their edges, clean up the grit in their guitars, and refine their melodies into a sound that's considerably less aggressive and more artful than where they started. And as it happens, the Sidekicks have become a pretty good indie rock band; Steve Ciolek's vocals are better suited to the poppier sound of this album's more subtle attack (which, in turn, is a good match for his heart-on-my-sleeve lyrics), and he and Matt Schuermann blend their guitar lines into a richly jangly sound that's spare but strongly atmospheric, while bassist Ryan Starinsky and drummer Matt Climer keep the songs solidly rooted (and Climer has a good sense of when to add some extra punch to his performances). The Sidekicks still understand the value of turning up the tempo on songs like "Everything in Twos" and "Blissfield, MI," but most of Runners in the Nerved World is firmly planted in midtempo, and the band sounds comfortable there, playing with the nuances of their elemental but expressive tunes and the personal, semi-impressionistic lyrics.