Gig Review: Sick Joy w/ Japanese TV Club @ Think Tank? Underground
Sadly I was unable to catch local rockers Melt, however I arrived in time for the second band on the lineup.
When I was considering whether or not to buy a ticket to this Sick Joy gig, Japanese TV Club’s support slot announcement was the clincher.
The ‘Cry and Compliment Me’ EP is impressive in its own right but I believe in the power of a live gig to really convey a body of work.
When the band first gathered on stage they looked like they’d been dropped off with no forewarning, eventually taking comfort once their instruments were in full swing and finding their momentum together. Despite a couple of false starts and a hastiness to the tracks, both of which can be attributed to them being a young band, it really was a solid set.
The way the tracks communicated to a live audience was quite interesting, from the lo-fi, shoe-gaze recordings to a slightly clearer overall sound that showcased each instrument a little more distinctly.
I couldn’t review them without mentioning ‘Troubled Waters by the Wayside’, it’s so hauntingly evocative regardless of which form you’re hearing it in and that’s purely down the lyrics: “what does it feel to be complete, to feel like you never have to compete for love, joy, fulfillment, ever again”.
When Sick Joy took to the stage it was with little more than a wave in the direction of the audience. Instead, they launched straight into their set with ferocious deliverance, working the crowd up with their dirty riffs and punchy lyrics.
It’s that token sound that has had many reviewers pointing out the nineties grunge influences, most notably Nirvana.
Though the band are based in Brighton, two-thirds of their current line-up relocated from Newcastle so I think it’s only fair we claim them as our own, right? And even if they didn’t outright profess it as a homecoming gig, the suggestion was there in frontman Mykl’s admittance that he’d spent so long in Brighton that it was nice to be surrounded by Geordies (people who could actually understand what he was saying).
Sick Joy sit alongside bands like Demob Happy and Fizzy Blood in the latest resurgence of proper guitar bands, bands who seem driven by the importance of their live sound.
No gimmicks or eccentricities, just honest songwriting and lofty guitars. A formula that was proven a success when I looked around to see the crowd singing along to ‘Smiling Shame’, perhaps the track that utilises pop sensibilities most prominently, and ‘Senses’ with its wooing riffs.
In an interview with Louder Sound, Sick Joy spoke about how the bands that made them want to pick up their instruments in the first place, had inspired their sound (cue those nineties grunge comparisons again). Frontman Mykl went on to state that “it seemed a lot of people were feeling this sort of devolution and disenchantment with current stuff and where it was going”.
Hence the birth of the band's grounded sound.
There’s definitely some truth in his statement as there are so many genre offerings in modern music, causing significant pressure on bands to constantly be evolving their sound in order to remain relevant.
Lately being experimental has meant playing around so much with technological elements that the live sound is forfeited or turned into something of a grand spectacle. There is of course space for that, and there are artists doing it well, but everything needs balance and Sick Joy are the other face of the coin.
The band's newest release ‘Dissolve Me’ is a cacophonous show, a simple song about lust, hardened by its pummelling instrumentation and given levels in the delivery of the vocals that drop from a fevered exclamation.
During ‘Cat in a Bird Cage’ the trio were pushing their instruments to create as much rabid noise as possible, the systematic components of the Sick Joy machine.
It was definitely the standout song for me, as vocalist/guitarist Mykl and bassist Danny came together in the center of the stage, bordering drummer Martyn, in a séance of sound.
Though the gig was a short one I was definitely left feeling satisfied. With ringing ears, energised spirits and a soggy shirt sleeve from sloshing a pint about a bit too much.
To top off the experience the band even offered up a new track somewhere amidst the chaos but didn’t give us much of an elaboration beyond stating it’s newness, not even a title.
Though after the success of their latest releases and the tour so far, as well as the band recently signing to a label, it’s safe to say we’ll be hearing a whole load more from them in the near future.
Cover photograph by the author.