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The best kept secret in music


"Side Dish - Truth or Dare album"

ALBUM: Side Dish - Truth or Dare (grade: A-)

IN A NUTSHELL: A surprisingly solid and mature effort from a young-but-veteran local band who use modern ska as a springoard to their own unique sound.


I won't lie to you. When I'm handed a new CD by a local ska-punk band, my usual reaction is to run away, very fast. Why? Because, more than almost any other modern musical genre, ska-punk has become a "formula" music. I've found that there's only so much "skank guitar verse + crunch guitar chorus + simplistic horn riffs + pop-punk vocals" I can handle, and most of what I CAN handle, I already handled in 1998.

Having said that, this 11 song platter by Side Dish was quite the pleasant surprise. The first obvious strong point is the musicianship; in a genre and a scene where too many groups sound like an unholy cross between a bad Blink-182 knockoff and a junior high marching band, it was refreshing and enjoyable to hear a band with solid musicians at every instrument. The horn section is extremely solid - while playing fairly basic riffs and accents, they're strong, confident, and perfectly in tune. The rhythm section is similarly rock solid, handling speedy ska, pop-punk, and mid-tempo rock with ease.

But the second, and by far more important strength of this CD is its ambition and diversity. While the ska-punk influence is evident - these guys obviously came through the school of Reel Big Fish - they wisely refuse to be limited by their influences. After a bit of a misstep with the solid-but-average ska-punk opening track, "Pack Up," Side Dish dishes out three excellent songs in a row. "Shock Me," "Big Surprise," and "Hotshot" are all characterized by good tempos, great melodies, and surprisingly complex guitar work. In place of the straight "skank" patterns of a Buck-O-Nine or Jeffries Fan Club, frontman Ryan Sanders comes up with smart, driving riffs that really carry the songs. In addition, Sanders avoids the snotty, Tom Delonge school of vocal delivery, which is fortunate since his voice is excellent. If I had to compare this album to any ska-punk band, I would say it's similar to recent Less Than Jake material, but even that's a bit of a stretch. With the direction Side Dish's music is moving in (not coincidentally, the most generic ska-punk songs on the album, "Pack Up" and "Busted," are also among their oldest songs), the ska-punk label isn't going to cover them much longer. The best songs on this album would be best described as "catchy, uptempo rock with a horn section."

Overall, this is a very strong release by Side Dish, who continue to get better and better as time goes by. While I feel the album as a whole would be more cohesive if they trimmed it to eight tracks (ideally excluding the older, more ska-influenced songs), it's still one of the best local releases to hit my CD changer in the past two years. I strongly recommend anyone to check out this CD - buy it at a show, since Side Dish is also a very good live act.


BAND NOTES: Many thanks to Ben for his review of our CD! Just so you know, we took his advice and moved the song "Pack Up" (which used to be track 1) and moved it later in the CD (track 7). - Ben Duffy (independent)


Truth or Dare, 11 song album (2004)
Age of Intent, 6 song EP (2005)


Feeling a bit camera shy


2005 has been a good year so far for Side Dish, playing the SLC Warped Tour - Ernie Ball Stage, 4 shows with Zebrahead, a handful with Army of Freshmen, Big D and the Kids Table, Streetlight Manifesto, Monty--with a lot more to come!

Side Dish's "rock with horns" style mixes powerful guitars and blaring horns to create a sonic punch in the face, and crowds are rocked by the band's energetic live show.

The band has released two albums: Truth or Dare (2004) and Age of Intent (2005). Both were recorded and produced by Joel Pack at Aquarius Sound.

Side Dish is based in Orem, Utah and regularly plays shows throughout Utah, with scattered trips to Nevada, California, Colorado, and Idaho. The band is gearing up to go on an extended tour throughout the West.