First impressions are everything in music and when I’m looking for an album to review, that’s what I look for, so when I was looking for a stand out album, the debut album by the L.A alternative rock band Badflower called OK, I’m Sick was my music fix and is everything I look for in music.
They formed back in 2013 and have released two EPs so far, with their last EP Temper being named among the best rock albums of 2016 by iTunes – their song “Animal” was among the best songs of that year as well. In 2017 they signed with Big Machine Records and this album is their first release on the label.
Their new album OK, I’m Sick is an impressive and straight to the point record that really doesn’t shy away from issues like drug abuse and depression, with great production and hard-hitting instrumentation, mixed with strong songwriting around these kinds of subject matter, it makes for great music overall.
Let’s take a closer look at the album, starting with is first track “x ANA x“. The track is insane and all over the place in a good way, with Josh Katz’s vocals really driving the whole thing, using his crazy tone and the feeling that he is high, which backs up the song tackling what drug abuse is like. Everything from the lyrics to the instrumentation makes for a fun and thought-provoking start to the album.
Then we go to “The Jester“, a song which sees Josh looking at the jester that he believes he is, and with the dynamics of his voice on full display and the vocal harmonies as well, this track will keep you hook and wanting more. I love the lyrics and the feeling he has been through these things in a very thought out song.
The next track “Ghost” really hits you where it hurts, with Josh talking about his brush with self-harm and attempted suicide and what he was going through when he was having these thoughts. It doesn’t hide from these feelings, like some song would, and the instrumentation really creates an atmosphere that allows you to feel some of what he felt.
This is best shown in the chorus with the lines “Take the blade away from me, I am a freak, I am afraid that, All the blood escaping me won’t end the pain, And I’ll be haunting all the lives that cared for me“, showing the pain and why this song really moves you and makes you feel for him.
We look at “We’re in Love” which dives into loving someone of the same sex and the confusion about feeling this way, with the whole song playing out as he is figuring this out. This can be shown in the pre-chorus with the line, “There’s nothing to fear, perfectly queer, I am if you say so” which puts this across nicely, backed by the nice reverb and dreamy feel going throughout the track.
The album then gets to “Promise Me” which looks at the pain of growing up and looking back at the past which we can all relate to. With the nice mix of slow and relaxing vibes in the verses, and a rock chorus as an antithesis, it really is a great track overall. The lyrics in the first verse line “We’re getting old now, But I don’t feel it” pretty much sum it up nicely.
“Daddy” is a really dark offering, and it doesn’t tiptoe around the subject of sexual abuse from a family member. This is told through the thoughts of a young girl whose father is abusing her. The slowness of the verse and the build to the chorus, which feels like the abuse is happening as you listen, really gets to you.
It is at the bridge where the song gets really dark, as the girl kills him and this is put across in the lines “So late in the night, her eyes seeing red. And Daddy lay sick on the hospital bed, She creeps in the room with a bag in her hand, And smothers the face of a terrible man“. Lead singer Josh does a great job of really hitting home how people who have gone through this abuse might feel.
The next track “24” explores the feelings going through Josh’s mind when he was 24. The vocals on this one are selling hopelessness and the lyrics show that Josh isn’t afraid of talking about himself. I love the build to the bridge, which comes with an awesome atmosphere and really gets you into the track – this is my favourite song of the album.
“Heroin” offers a really nice twist with the title, with you thinking it’s about drugs but it’s about a relationship. The track is delivered very well, with a similar layout to “24”, and when they need to hit the emotional points as with this track, Badflower get it right all the time. With yet again another amazing chorus and bridge, “Heroin” is another great addition to the record.
We go full peat on “Die”, which is directed at the current United States President Donald Trump, and it doesn’t hold back, with Josh really laying into Trump. With its gritty guitars and passionate vocals, it fully captures the you the mood of several parts of the country.
With lines like “Burned the election, they’ve trumped us again, manipulate the population, can we just ascend? Impeach the asshole, and all of his friends“, it’s a great song to listen to if you’re not a fan of Trump.
“Murder Games” looks at the meat and dairy industry and how bad it is to kill living animals to eat for our own desire. This is once again touching on an issue that makes you feel and think, and this is why I like this band.
The chorus on this one is what will be stuck in your head, with the repeat of “Your murder games, murder games, murder games, murder games” and with Josh’s vocal range, the line sounds different each time, which is awesome, and never makes the song feel monotonous.
“Girlfriend” is really just a straight up rock track that looks at online dating and how it can mess with your mind. I like how he always goes to the extreme on a subject, and his screaming vocals on this one, really bring out the emotion that is needed for the song. The line “Your face is so fine,Your body’s a ten, I’m probably less” sums it up nicely – once again, this is yet another great track to listen to on the album.
We finish the album with the songs “Wide Eyes” and “Cry“. “Wide Eyes” tackles sexual abuse in the church, with a strong message and a bridge that sums up the feeling most people have had about the subject, while “Cry” looks at the effect that crying has on us. The track is a nice slow offering, led by high-quality lyrics, and with more synths to set the mood, it’s a great way to end a highly emotional album.
Overall, I really love this album, with its very well put together tracks, and Josh’s brilliant vocal range. More importantly, they have not held back on the strong subjects of depression, drugs, and sexual abuse, which they tackle head on. Badflower OK, I’m Sick is really worth having a listen, purchase it on iTunes here, and stream it on Spotify below.
Words by Stuart Irvine