Music News

Short Cuts

Like most contemporary rock composers, Filter singer-songwriter Richard Patrick only has one good song in him. In Patrick's particular case, that song would be "Hey Man, Nice Shot," the earthshaking single featured on Filter's 1995 debut album, Short Bus. Ominous and creepy, "Hey Man, Nice Shot" was a sonic miracle. Opening with Frank Cavanaugh's sinister bass lines, the tune snowballed to a series of climactic choruses scientifically designed to boost testosterone levels. The track's instrumental assault was so compelling, it almost overshadowed Patrick's sneering vocals, which somehow managed to convey both slacker apathy and lunatic rage. This potent combination of alienation and angst makes "Hey Man, Nice Shot" one of the most baleful geek songs of the altrock age.

All this considered it should come as no surprise that the best songs on Filter's latest release echo "Hey Man, Nice Shot." Indeed, Title of Record spreads the "Hey Man, Nice Shot" concept over an entire album. New tracks like "Captain Bligh" and "I Will Lead You" are built around Cavanaugh's sinewy bass lines and Patrick's Ritalin-induced tantrums. The band tries to shake things up on tunes like "Cancer" and "Skinny" by adding breathy female vocals or Jane's Addiction-like melodies, but there's simply no disguising the Filter formula. As endearing as these guys can be, versatility is not their strong suit.

And therein lies the problem. Title of Record is a good CD, but it could have been great had the band paid more attention to breaking new ground. For starters Patrick and his cohorts could try examining emotions other than misery, fear, and guilt. If Patrick's personal life is as agonizing as his music suggests, then he should seriously consider checking into an institution. On "It's Gonna Kill Me," the singer intimates that some girl is out to murder him, while elsewhere he opines that he's "going nowhere." Dude, your debut album went platinum. What do you mean you're going nowhere?

Of course Patrick's life is probably relatively peachy, but he could never admit it. Like his mentor, Nine Inch Nails' mastermind Trent Reznor, Patrick has painted himself into an emotional corner. He can express only despairing feelings lest he alienate his industrial-rock fans. There's something pathetic about bands that masquerade as rebels, especially when they're every bit as pandering and greedy as the politicians they often criticize. If you're a fan of industrial rock, then Title of Record is a guaranteed thrill. But take Patrick's woe-is-me lyrics with a grain of salt… and an antidepressant.

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Bruce Britt