My first experience with SICMaN of VA was on a Sunday afternoon in early 2011. They were one of the first bands to appear on the long-running podcast YourMusicShow and were performing an experimental acoustic set in the kitchen with an upright bass, guitar, and synth. Magic happened that afternoon and I was immediately drawn to their trippy yet heavy punkish sound, somewhat silly lyrics (“You in your sweatpants, your sweatpants of love …”) and their likeness to Ween, probably my favorite band of all time. I went home and scrolled through iTunes to buy their brand new sophomore release, Sweatpants and other Necessary Nonsense, and It quickly became standard rotation in my library. I’ve been hooked on the SICMaN catalog ever since.
On May 20, SICMaN releases their fourth, and in my opinion best collection of songs to date, Mourning Sicness. Yes, some of the songs still contain dark humor and absurdities, and the heavy jamming SICMaN sound is definitely still intact. But the songwriting and playing have matured in a way I can’t quite place and the album seems more cohesive than previous efforts. The trio’s third release, Stale as it Ever Was was pure fun and jumped back and forth between genres often, as this record does as well. But all the songs on “Mourning Sicness” hold a footprint of a raw yet textured sound that is sustained throughout the album.
The opening track, "Charles From the Raven," is a pure gold hard rocker that truly sets the energy for what is to come. It is also a one of the four tracks on the album that features Ween’s bassist Dave Dreiwitz as a guest. Singer/Guitarist Matt Holloman had this to say about the securing the guest experience:
“We contacted Dave about 10 years ago about doing some bass tracks for us. We were without a bassist at the time. We kept in contact and it finally panned out he was gonna be in the area performing with Marco Beneventos trio. I met him at the venue, drove him to studio J, did the 4 tracks, and then drove him back to the venue all in about a 2.5 hour time frame. He had never heard the songs until the car ride over from Virginia Beach to Ocean View. He for some reason took a liking to us. He agreed to do a show in New Hope with us a few months later with his duo, and that turned into Ween without Gener. The rest they say is history....”
The rawness continues with the second track “Decapitated” and begins to hint at the heavy intricate textures contained on the rest of the album. Cue up trippy layers of synths and wailing guitar solos suitable for both head banging or kicking back with your smoking buddies.
Speaking of wailing, I’d be amiss to not mention Holloman’s explosive guitar chops. When SICMaN plays live, they enjoy extending their songs to jam, sometimes up to ten minutes or more per song. These extended jams don’t happen on their albums, but the track “Big Brown Eye” is a perfect example of what you will hear and see when you see SICMaN live in their longer jamming mode. And, I have to wonder what Holloman sounds SO happy about when he exclaims “It’s a BIG BROWN EYE!!”
Among many other songs, SICMaN’s master bassist Scott Griffin gets to a chance to shine on the relatively mellow “Spaceship (15 to 5 Blues)” which took me back to Smashing Pumpkins Pisces Escariot era with its slow yet heavy and textured vibe.
"Bleu Cheese" is another track that features Dreiwitz and is probably the most reminiscent of Ween on this album. The likeness is undeniable both musically and vocally. It is a genius beautiful song in its own right while also serving as an honorable nod to one of SICMaN's greatest influences. This track, along with two others, features a second guest, Tim McDonald on keyboard. Drummer Joe Welch had this to say about McDonald:
“I met Tim about 12 years ago when I recorded Russell Scarborough's album called "Russell Scarborough presents Tim McDonald", and I recorded his solo Jazz album soon after as well. And when we finished the 1st SICMaN album we asked if he would put some keys down for us, cuz he dug our stuff. At the time he said he was going to move to Nashville one day and become a country musician, which he eventually did. We've stayed in touch ever since, but for this album we sent him the tracks and had him put the keys down at a studio in Nashville and send the key tracks back to us to put in the mix.”
The other two McDonald/Drewitz guest tracks, “Madness of Life” and “Bianca Y Lobo” are nice sing-a-long style tunes with a slightly different vibe that gets very rocking but in a folksy way that stays just heavy enough to be SICMaN. I would reservedly compare the tracks to The Grateful Dead when the extended instrumentals get extremely textured.
My favorite track on the album, "Gagagoogoo," is a definite pleaser and is probably the most accessible on the album. At first I heard Sonic Youth, then The Pixies, then just a touch of Ween, and before I realized, it had turned into a dance track interspersed with the breakdown with the manipulated struggling shouted vocals “It all feels the same!”
As with other SICMaN albums, Mourning Sicness was recorded and mixed by Welch at his attic recording space, Studio J. The album was nearly a year and a half in the making but not without good reason. Welch stays busy recording other hot local acts. He produced the award winning Sunlight Fever by The Framers and is currently recording Broken Mouth Annie’s new album. And the kicker: About halfway through the recording of their own record, Welch’s wife Rachel became pregnant with their first son, Joseph Jr. I can only assume that the track “Hey Joey” is a fun and playful childlike tribute to their newborn, and the album title itself almost had to have popped up as an indisputably appropriate play on unfortunate mother-to-be symptoms.
I could go on and on about Mourning Sicness, and SICMaN, for many pages, but I think that Justin Wilson of YourMusicShow summed up this album perfectly with three words: “It’s essential SICMaN.” And with that I urge you get yourself a copy of Mourning Sicness and rock out in your own SIC way.
Mourning Sicness will be released on May 20 and is available for pre-order at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mourning-sicness/id848473424
The CD Release show will take place Friday May 30 at Belmont House of Smoke in Norfolk, with special guest RIO.
Much more info and music at http://www.sicman.com