Adrian And The Sickness

Fantom Records, 2009


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


All too often, the bio artists send out with their album is an exercise in grade-school puffery, overblown and counter-productive, overpromising what an album is actually capable of delivering.  Not so with Adrian And The Sickness, whose one-sheet definitely caught my attention comparing the trio to the progeny of a hook-up between AC/DC and the Go-Gos -- an analogy I might amend as “three of the Go-Gos on a triple-date with Angus Young, Rick Nielsen, and Billy Joe Armstrong.”

However you pair off the group’s obvious influences, the end result on B.F.D. is 37 minutes of muscular hard rock riffs wrapped inside a candy coating of power-pop hooks and harmonies.  Ah, but the connections between this Austin power trio – Adrian Conner on lead vocals and guitar, Heather Webb on bass and vocals and Melodie Zapata on drums -- and their influences run deeper than even their sound might suggest; Go-Gos bassist Kathy Valentine produced B.F.D., sang harmonies and co-wrote four songs, and Conner and Zapata’s other gig is playing in Hell’s Belles, an all-female AC/DC tribute band notable enough to have earned kudos from Angus himself.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Opener “Modern Freedom” charges in hard on a frenetic pop-punk beat that matches Chrissie Hynde attitude with Green Day riffage.  “Turn It Up” takes a more conventional turn, a hooky tune that feels a bit slick, but not in a bad way; I’d compare it to the melodic hard rock feel of a “You Shook Me All Night Long” -- and we all know how THAT turned out.

The airy but potent “Listening,” the first of the Valentine co-writes here, somewhat inevitably reminds of classic Go-Gos tunes like “Turn To You,” a strong and sure power-pop number.  “Rice ’n’ Beans” burns with propulsive energy, and finds Adrian sounding a bit like Sheryl Crow in places -- at least until she shreds a Michael Schenker-worthy solo.  As for “Fight Nice”… well, let’s just say I was surprised to find this was one of the tunes Valentine DIDN’T co-write; this fiery, foot-tapping, call-and-answer slice of rock and roll heaven could easily pass for a lost cut from Beauty And The Beat

The kinder, gentler title track shows off Conner’s appealing vocals, before the cowbell-worthy “What Ya Do Ta Me” sends the crowd into a head-banging, air-guitaring frenzy.  “Common Ground” follows, offering another terrific bit of guitar-driven power-pop, while “Loser” pushes in a heavier, bluesier direction, with a start-stop dynamic and ripping solo section that would undoubtedly earn a smile from Angus.  “Not Sure” is an accomplishment, too -- a throbbing, danceable rocker that doubles as a perceptive, rather melancholy self-examination.

The album closes with a tight, enthusiastic cover of “Radar Love,” a song that fits this group’s character well -- direct, riff-driven and heavy, with clever twists and turns.  They’re mostly faithful to the original arrangement, but amp the tempo up a bit to give it a slightly caffeinated sound.

There isn’t a track on B.F.D. over 3:35 long, and the pace suits the music perfectly; this is tight, harmony-rich power-pop with just enough of a punk/hard rock edge to generate a truly combustible mixture.  Adrian And The Sickness have crafted an album that lives up to its billing -- hard-edged yet melodic rock and roll, tremendously potent and instantly memorable.

Rating: A-

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