I’ve never understood why so many people like to listen to sad music when they’re upset. Why not throw on some disgustingly cheery anthem to make the sadness go away? I thought music was supposed to be medicine. But as luck would have it, recent relationship troubles have given me plenty to brood about. So when I picked up Sulk, the 1997 album by Blair O’Halloran and Sherrie Laird (known collectively as Sulk), I was ready to do as it said.
The album’s cover art doesn’t set the tone very well; on it, a woman and a man holding an electric guitar stand apart, leaning against a brick wall, looking in different directions. Are they forlorn lovers, strangers, or commuters enduring Mississauga transit wait times? Oh, the mysteries.
Sulk is not what I expected. For one, most of its tracks are upbeat and pleasant. Laird’s vocals have the confident twang of Shania Twain and the youthful enthusiasm of Taylor Swift. Although it’s not really my taste, her voice is controlled and powerful—she’s certainly talented.
At nearly six minutes, Sulk’s longest and strongest track is “Tomorrow”. It’s about losing love, picking yourself up, and moving on when you’ve left a part of yourself behind. It’s a message of hope after heartbreak, when every breath is painful. The lyrics may not be anything special, but Laird performs with such sincerity that they don’t need to be.
However, Sulk’s weak finish is disappointing. The electronic keyboard in “Talk” is meant to be ethereal but shows its age instead. “Dreamtime” also suffers from having a late ’90s sound; it could have been proto-Florence and the Machine but instead it’s like Whitney Houston accompanying Mortal Kombat. I must admit I didn’t want it to end, but I also couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
I’ve heard that an album should be consumed as a whole and appreciated as a complete experience. Sulk starts strong but doesn’t stick the landing. It’s a shame, too. I was so ready to sulk, but Sulk brought me to a place I didn’t want to go.