Real Sickies – Quarantine

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

Real Sickies

Quarantined - STOMP Records

Well, it didn’t take long, but it happened.  In a little under a month of Canada declaring self-isolation measures, Real Sickies wrote, recorded and released the first fully COVID-19 themed pop-punk album.  While I’m not sure what’s going on in other corners of the musical landscape at the moment, I wouldn’t doubt if this was the first of its kind across all genres.  The album, aptly titled Quarantined, is a snapshot of the issues transforming life at the onset of a global pandemic, but with a healthy dose of humour to help lift the spirit. And to top it off, admirably, all proceeds from the album go to the WHO Covid-19 Relief Fund. 

The album opens with an invitation from the virus itself.  “I’m in lock down, stuck in your city / I am the world’s loneliest virus / I just want your company,” sings the band, driving home the idea that the virus spreads based on its host’s own desire for social contact.  The music is sufficiently upbeat, and much like the media clip underlying the end of the song, describes itself as tackling a serious topic without taking itself too seriously. “Washed My Hands” serves as a public service announcement about washing your hands fifty times per day, water bills going “through the roof,” and suddenly having to pay bills and expenses you can’t afford after being laid off.  The song ends with a cheat sheet for the rules of life during COVID-19: “First rule is No shaking hands / Second rule is Cancel all your plans / Third Rule is Don’t touch your face / Fourth Rule is Keep your loved ones safe.” Of course it’s ever so catchy and driven by Real Sickies’ penchant for silly Ramones-esque three chord pop-punk, featuring repetitive and singable chorus lines.

There are definitely stronger tracks than others, but as far as a twenty minute pop-punk outing goes, a few minor lulls become easily absorbed by the stronger of the bunch.  “Fake Spring Break” is an undeniable mid-album highlight as it momentarily breaks from the four walls of quarantine to make social and political statements of those that were quick to dismiss the scope and scale of the COVID-19.  The track is written from the perspective of reckless Miami spring breakers, personified by the now oft-cited Brady Sluder interview in which the clueless spring breaker states, “whatever happens happens with the bars being closed,” as he flaunts his freedom to party in the face of collective health and safety.  The juxtaposition between Trudeau telling Canadians to “go home and stay home” and Trump’s misguided optimism of opening the American economy by Easter emerges through the track’s strategically embedded media clips. The track marks a bit of a transition in the album that parallels society’s perspective shifting from the novelty of staying home to a mindset in which keeping two meters apart is the tragic new normal.

Reality starts to sink in shortly thereafter with “Another Night,” in which organs hum, riffs buzz and the band cuts loose with a simple late song guitar solo.  As weeks of isolation begin taking their toll, lyrics begin to darken with the realization, “I can’t stand another night with you / I can’t stand all the things you do.”  The band quickly slides into losing one’s sanity with “Cabin Fever,” as they go on to introduce listeners to their “new friends Moppy and Cleaver,” and the various activities they do together with inanimate objects to occupy the seemingly never ending passage of time.  “Trapped Inside” ups the tempo with a final warning to reflect on your quarantine behaviours, and ultimately treat your countrymen with compassion. Whether you’re a landlord, hoarder or young and healthy, the ultimate message is to be a part of the solution and to “Please do your resting / While we finish our testing.”

Real Sickies keep to their basic pop-punk formula while relating to our present COVID-19 reality. Quarantined makes public the many silly, stir crazy aspects of private life during social isolation without trivializing the severity of the global outbreak.  Musically, Real Sickies adhere to their familiar Copyrights meets Ramones style, allowing for the pendulum to swing between a range of pop-punk tempos and melodies.  Despite only having written and recorded Quarantined in seven days, Real Sickies have made it one of their defining albums to date.  

But I’m also going to be a little selfish here.  The only thing that could have made Quarantined more in tune with the Canadian COVID-19 landscape would have been a punked-up cover of our Prime Minister’s recent hilarious “Speaking Moistly” comment, which has been songified into a super catchy “remix” and is being covered by artists across the country.  Sadly it was released a week after the album, so it’s hardly an oversight, just poor timing.  Hear that Real Sickies?  If you’re still looking for something to do in the midst of quarantine, I’ve got another project for ya… interested?