When we think of an event being 25 years, it’s usually a huge life event like a wedding or a birthday. It’s a quarter of a century, you know?
But with Sick Of It All’s Nonstop, it’s kind of like a reunion with their oldest material, some of which dates back to 1987. It’s basically a re-recording of the legendary NYHC veterans’ work from Blood, Sweat and No Tears onward.
The obvious question is, “Why re-record such masterpieces!?” Let us kill this one effectively quickly: it sounds better. Of course, there is a certain charm to raw recording and it’s part of the hardcore know-it-all culture. Besides nostalgia, there is no reason to listen to the old recordings unless you enjoy having one hell of a time deciphering words. Listeners are barging in with their prejudices anyway; nothing will change how you do or do not feel about re-recording.
The biggest part of what changed is a few tempos but it’s always for the better, as if the songs were always supposed to be this way. Upon looking back at the old versions, either the live versions have warped you into thinking they did always sound that way, or your brain invented it.
So, if you never listened to Sick Of It All, first: shame on you, but now is still a good time to start. If you say, “Duh, I have. So now what?,” this is an exquisite collection of their finest songs that makes you remember why the band is so great and influential. For a lineup that has remained extremely consistent, the songs got faster and tighter live. Guitarist Pete Koller, bassist Craig Setari, and drummer Armand Majidi make us realize why the re-recording was necessary, and Lou Koller has never sounded better vocally.
Remember when you could sing “Sanctuary” for your buddy, how much power you felt with “My Life,” or when “Us Vs. Them” was the response to those cooler than thou? Plus, Sick Of It All wasn’t just a meaningless hardcore band either. They took on the reality of race and ethnicity relations in “Just Look Around” and “Injustice System!” Surely, they created a hardcore formulaic song structure that many bands, both good and god-awful, have tried to emulate.
On the whole, rating a greatest hits meets re-recording album is arduous. What we have is a bunch of the best songs from a band’s catalog recorded in a live fashion that people pay money to see. At the risk of too much deliberation it’s simply this: Nonstop is gratifying but slightly dispensable.
Really though, no other NYHC band required so much thrashing. By the end of “Built to Last,” we know 25 years and nine albums later this isn’t the last time we’ll hear from Sick Of It All. It’s not a funeral, but a celebration worthy of a huge cake. Instead of dancing, there will be moshing.