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Sickpay is the new solo project of Mike Birnbaum, a Brooklyn-based musician who has played with the likes of Juiceboxxx and Wavves. His debut EP Pureocracy is the artist more fully embracing punk, a genre he had been flirting with for years, and the title reflects a certain ethos of straight-forward, no-nonsense production. Regardless of its lo-fi inspired approach, the hooks here are huge, and the songs are like arena anthems from an alternate dimension. One of the many projects conceived during the pandemic, this music is not content to wallow in its origins and defiantly escapes from apocalyptic doomsaying.
Wavves are obviously a source of inspiration here, as songs like “Quiet As A Joke” have a post-punk/grunge skeleton to which Birnbaum has grafted a wobbly drug-haze. Other songs like “Devoid” sound like a Weezer cassette that has gotten jammed and distorted in the tape deck, while “How Many Times” is similar to the Replacements sloppy punk that flirts occasionally with country. Like Paul Westerberg, Birnbaum has an understated, deceptive knack for pop, and if one were to remove all of the lo-fi and sludge, any of these songs could be hits. Yet Pureocracy thrives and succeeds because of its production, and although modest, it’s a definite contender for one of the year’s strongest debuts.
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