Teenage Bottlerocket – Sick Sesh
Released: August 27th, 2021
Ray Carlisle | guitar, vocals
Kody Templeman | guitar, vocals
Miguel Chen | bass
Darren Chewka | drum, backing vocals
It’s always exciting when one of your favourite bands releases a new album, but it’s especially exciting when it’s a band like Teenage Bottlerocket (or TBR). Teenage Bottlerocket have this kind of no-holds-barred-but-who-cares? approach to punk rock that allows them to have a tonne of attitude without ever feeling too serious. They’re fun, and having fun is a really important part of music. I think the only downside is that giving their music an honest review is tricky — because I just love them so much!
I think what’s really difficult about reviewing this album is that Teenage Bottlerocket have so many great albums already that even an album that’s pretty damn solid is going to struggle to be in their top 3 — and that’s what Sick Sesh feels like. There isn’t a weak song on the album but it also never really hits the same highs as They Came From the Shadows or Tales From Wyoming. It’s not really fair to expect a band to keep releasing better music, at a point it just becomes impossible. It’s like the 100m sprint — there’s only so many world records Usain Bolt could break. Am I saying Teenage Bottlerocket are the Usain Bolt of punk rock? No, mostly because they aren’t Jamaican and punk rock is way more of a winter Olympic sport, like giant slalom or that one where the skiers do lots of flips (Giant Ski Flippy Jump? Is that a sport?).
Anyway, I digress. So sure, Sick Sesh may not become an all-timer for the band but it’s still a really solid effort which is unlikely to leave anyone disappointed. It may also grow on you — some of my favourite records aren’t the ones that I fell in love with immediately but the albums that I listened to over and over for a long time and came to find a deeper understanding of. So who knows, maybe I’ll be looking back at this review in a few years and be wondering what the hell my damn problem was.
I think one thing that separates this album from previous efforts is the strength of the opening track. In the past the band has opened with tracks like ‘Skate or Die’ and ‘Freak Out!’ which are both infectiously catchy tunes that became instant classics for the band, but Sick Sesh opens with ‘Semi Truck’. The song is fine but it’s just not quite the caliber I’d expect for the opening track of a Teenage Bottlerocket album. It’s not until the third track, ‘Ghost Story’, that things start to really shine. ‘Ghost Story’ has been the breakthrough single for the album and is absolutely a great tune, but I feel that three songs deep is a little too late for an album to grab your attention. In a world where we can mindlessly scroll through TikTok and Instagram we’re used to giving media mere seconds to impress us, so I think it’s even more important for albums to come out with guns blazing.
From there it improves with ‘Sing Along’ and ‘Strung Out on Stress’, the latter of which might just be the best song of the album — it has a similar energy to ‘Fatty Goes Nutzoid’ (from They Came From the Shadows) in that it’s angry and fast, but also a little relatable ‘life is shit / my head’s a fucking mess’. Who among us can’t relate to that in 2021? If that isn’t the title to your 2021 then I can only imagine you’re a time traveller from 2021 B.C. and you’re just stoked to be not dying from wooly mammoth attacks or something.
For what it’s worth, Sick Sesh is a good album, it just feels a little like Teenage Bottlerocket have played it safe and committed to using the same tricks they’ve used for every other album. There’s nothing wrong with that — it’s punk rock. If I wanted things to get weird I’d listen to fusion jazz or whatever the fuck a Björk is. Anyway, Sick Sesh dropped this week and I’m still gonna play the absolute shit out of it. It’s probably not going to wind up being my favourite album of the year, but who cares? Your mileage may vary, so definitely give it a chance — I’d be happy to be proven wrong on this one.
Teenage Bottlerocket – Sick Sesh tracklisting:
1. Semi Truck
2. You’re Never Going Out Of Style
3. Ghost Story
4. Never Sing Along
5. Strung Out on Stress
7. Hello Dana
8. Spend the Night
9. The Squirrel
10. Theoretical Reality
11. Gorilla Warfare
12. Moving On