Heralded as "the last remaining true New York hardcore outfit" by Spin, New York's proudest sons Sick of It All always have and always will be the real deal. After releasing a string of important hardcore records including 1989's Blood, Sweat, No Tears as well as 1992's classic Just Look Around, SOIA decided to take the major-label plunge by signing with EastWest Records. Leaving the act to its own devices, the label wisely chose to let the band self-produce Scratch the Surface (its fourth effort). Unleashed at the height of Green Day/Offspring mania, the album was destined for major attention, but, alas, it never came. Featuring a classic New York hardcore sound (and one that is admittedly not for the masses), the album features 14 tracks including the hyper-speedy "Insurrection," live favorite "No Cure," and "Desperate Fool." The real surprise, however, comes in the shape of two incredible band anthems. For one, there's the transcendent "Scratch the Surface" (which featured a great, live-action video later carbon copied by Papa Roach on "Last Resort"). Secondly, there's the monstrous singalong (not mention big Beavis and Butthead re-current) "Step Down." With "Step Down," the label tried to position SOIA as its "next big punk band." Unfortunately, EastWest met with resistance from radio programmers who were all too busy looking for the next Green Day. When all was said and done, as was the case with the Melvins, Scratch the Surface sold about as well the band's other independent efforts (even though it benefited from two videos and some decent label commitment).
AllMusic Review by John Franck