"Now And Then"

(Steel Cage Records 2003)Sickidz - Now And Then

Unless you were around at the height of the Philadelphia punk scene in the late '70s/early '80s, you have probably never heard of the Sickidz. No matter, you can go out and hear them for the first time now, because the Sickidz are back playing shows in clubs. They are also back on the stereos of sick kids everywhere thanks to a new release of both newly recorded songs and older unreleased live material on Steel Cage Records called "Sickidz Now and Then." The album is a collection of nine songs spanning over twenty years which includes five newly recorded songs (with the new lineup) as well as four classic Sickidz live performances from 1980.

The first song, "1, 2, 3, 4, Die, Die, Die," combines a slow, driving beat, super-fuzzy guitars, and psychobilly echo vocals into a theme song for juvenile delinquency that is just over a minute and half long. Instrumentally, this song captures the menacing feel of many Link Wray songs. The newly recorded "(At the) Hot Club" is a song about a long-gone Philly punk club that has a good time rock 'n' roll vibe, complete with old time rock piano and fun lyrics such as, "You might see a man in a police suit/You might see a boy with snakeskin boots/You might see a girl with a Chinese tan/You might see a guy they call Spider Man"¦at the Hot Club!" For the next song, "If the Flys are Alive," the tempo slows a bit as Mick Cancer reminisces about a band he saw "Sometime back in the late nineteen seventies." "If the Flys are Alive," is not only a sentimental song about the good old days, but also a plea for a long-gone band to come back, as evidenced by the chorus of the song, "If the Flys are alive, if the Flys are alive, won't you please come back, won't you please come back." Next, the Sickidz perform a stomping cover of the Nomads' classic, "Wasn't Born to Work," providing needed contrast to the previous song, which was the longest and slowest on the album.

The last five songs on "Sickidz Now and Then" are live recordings of various club shows. The first live song is a punk rock version of "Springtime for Hitler" (from the Mel Brooks movie "the Producers") which was recorded in 2003 when the Sickidz opened for the Cramps in Philadelphia. This song is as funny as ever if you get that it is supposed to be sarcastic, but the Philadelphia crowd in the recording did not understand sarcasm, so after the Sickidz finished playing it Mick announces to the crowd, "Well, it's good to know we have a left-wing audience, at least." Next up are live versions of "1, 2, 3, 4 Die Die Die" and "(At the) Hot Club" that were recorded in 1980 with the original Sickidz lineup. These versions are raw and fast, and creepy and urgent at the same time, like the punk rock of the time. These songs are followed with a live cover of the Cramps' "I'm Cramped" from 1980, and an older live version of "Springtime for Hitler" done with the original Sickidz lineup.

While the old live recordings are important to the history of the band, they lack the maturity of the newer Sickidz songs: that is, the idea that you can still rock hard and be dangerous if you play slowly. In fact, the Sickidz sound more dangerous when they slow down their songs. Overall, the only thing the "Sickidz Now and Then" lacks is enough new Sickidz material to keep dozens of repeat plays of the record from getting old.