Monday, February 11, 2008

22 Miles of Hard Road...

I don't really care how you feel about the song, "Take a Picture." After all, Filter is the same band that gave the world, "Hey Man, Nice Shot." It was announced today that after six years since their last album and hiatus, Filter will be back in May with a brand new album, "Anthems for the Damned." Upon hearing this good news, I couldn't help but feel that Filter have never really been given the attention or credit they deserve. Whether they were being written of as Nine Inch Nails rip-offs during a time when that was a trend (Stabbing Westward, Gravity Kills), or being deemed sell-outs for the success of "Take a Picture," Filter have not been received with the proper adulation from the alternative rock scene. Well, I hope I can change some opinions of this misunderstood band in time for their new release and tour.

Filter emerged on the scene in 1995 with their major label debut, "Short Bus." The album was packed from start to finish with alternative industrial pop rock. Having a problem with that term? That's because labeling the band was not an easy task. While their sound relied heavily in industrial music, they also used a more popular approach to move them into the alternative playing field, and straying from any true industrial fan base. Another band you may have heard of playing this same alternative industrial pop rock at the time was Nine Inch Nails. Since NIN were already established, Filter was quickly written off by critics and skeptics as just another clone of an already successful group. It's not that hard to understand a similarity in sound, as Richard Patrick, the creative force behind Filter, had previously toured with NIN as their live drummer during the "Pretty Hate Machine" era. After leaving the NIN touring band, Patrick would form his own project, Filter, with Brian Liesegang. Much in the fashion of NIN's Trent Reznor, these two men would create their album primarily by themselves. Handling the duties of vocals, drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, programming, producing, and engineering the release would help Filter to get the raw aggressive sound of their debut.

The songs that would comprise this album were bleak tales filled with distortion soaked vocals and heavy industrial rhythms. The guitar playing provides enough power to peel the paint off your walls, without becoming too heavy for modern rock radio. Beginning with the unlikely radio smash hit "Hey Man, Nice Shot" the lyrics and atmosphere set a fairly good assessment of what's to come. The typical hazy vocals delivered by Patrick provide soaring melodies to each song, as the mechanical sounds of the drums and wandering feedback of guitars pull everything together to create a sound that very well may leave the listener lost in the smoke of it all. The next track on the album, "Dose," is another personal favorite of mine. A sonic blend of bouncing bass lines, machine like industrial drumming, and squealing overdriven guitar effects, Filter bring the grunge scene another masterpiece of beautiful dysfunction. The strength of the hook's lyrics are dripping in alienation, "I hate it when you breach my space, and I hate it when you preach your case. And you should go someone else." Just when you feel Filter have created a sound heavy enough to crush your speakers, Patrick tones the album back down, with the mid-tempo strummed fuzz of "Stuck in Here." At this point in the album Patrick shows that he is no one note musician, and also has a knack for tying an album together. The album picks back up with more brooding examples of their sonic mayhem, until the album reaches the final track, "So Cool," a gorgeous song complete with a floating in a dream-like sound and programmed drums.

Filter than moved on to their sophomore album, "Title of Record." A far more ambitious album, Filter expanded their sound in every which was possible. Without forgetting where they had come from, Filter pushed their alternative industrial sound to a new level by adding touches of folk, pyschadelia, progressive, and world music to the mix. While the album does not contain the same raw sound as their debut, it does indeed deliver a very strong sound. While they broke through into the mainstream with "Take a Picture," a slower churning ballad that could be as easily played on Top 40 radio as rock stations, the song did not create the tone of the album. The opener, "Welcome to the Fold," would provide a good sense of what the album has in store for the listeners. Coming in at almost eight minutes in length, the song featured everything Filter had strengthened in their time between albums. Opening in typical hard rocking Filter style, the verses bring you exactly what you'd expect from the band. When the chorus hits however, you are introduced to the new strength of vocal melodies not shown on the first album. Playing with a full band this time around does not hurt either as the musicianship soars to new levels. The song moves along to the first bridge and into a musical interlude of guitars swirling in all directions. Everything breaks away as the breakdown of the song occurs highlighting Filter's second new strength, pyschadelic soundscapes and medicated sounding vocals that lead right back into the heavy grunge sound. "Title of Record" is Filter in a transition, and it goes above and beyond anything they were expected to do in the industry, and for a good reason. An eclectic mix of so many different styles, the album proves to be another solid listen from start to finish. Highlights, other than the aforementioned track, for me include "Skinny," "Captain Bligh," and "It's Gonna Kill Me."

So please, check these albums out with an open mind, and you should find two great albums from a talented and versatile band. Also look out for their brand new single, "Soldiers of Fortune" due out next month.

1 comment:

Zach said...

You're a damn good journalist, dude. This post inspired me to break out the ol' Short Bus again. Nothing tops "Dose." There's just something about the sound of this album, the distortion on the vocals, the overdriven guitar that gives it a very awesome nineties feel. I can't say I feel the same way about "Title of Record," though. It sounds way too polished, if you ask me. Comparatively, Filter's first album has the charm of Albini garage rock (remember that first Chevelle album?), which really works.

And they've been downhill ever since. The Amalgamut, which was pretty fecal; and I haven't even heard anything since.

At least they had that awesome song with The Crystal Method on the Spawn soundtrack. What a goddamn awesome soundtrack.

Hope you're doing well, dude. I owe you a phone call.