Review Summary: A completely overlooked gem
Though they may have been from Brooklyn, odds are you haven’t heard of Instruction unless you live in the United Kingdom. They collected a big enough following across the Atlantic to earn them a record deal with Geffen, and the only album they released during their existence is 2004’s God Doesn’t Care. It is a pummeling record, filled with big riffs and loud, throaty vocals from frontman and lyricist Arty Shepherd. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, God Doesn’t Care hardly made a blip on the music radar, and the band has since split.
Though it is tempting to call them post-grunge, mainly because of Shepherd’s Dave Grohl-on-steroids voice, their music didn’t always resemble that of the grunge gods of the early nineties. They were more consistently heavy than Alice in Chains ever was, they screamed more than Nirvana ever dared, and punk rock seems to have had a larger influence on them than the ‘70s rock bands that influenced the likes of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. Not quite heavy metal, and definitely not nu-metal, they fell somewhere in between alternative metal and the aforementioned post-grunge, which is the home of many of the most boring bands in rock music today, but Instruction managed to separate themselves from the others.
The first two tracks on God Doesn’t Care, “Great” and “Lean On You,” are similar and end up sounding like one five minute song instead of two separate ones, so at this point the listener might worry that Instruction is a one trick pony, but there is no need to worry. “Are You Happy?” is not a complete change in direction, but it actually sounds like a heavier Collective Soul, with a melody and Shepherd using a falsetto in addition to his screams and growls. “I’m Dead” is an even bigger departure from the way the album starts, with Shepherd’s using his clean voice at times, which sounds like that of Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida. The next song, “Breakdown,” brings back the heaviness, but it is still one of the most accessible songs on the record, with a chorus that would be good to sing along with if you wouldn’t sound ridiculous trying to emulate Shepherd’s voice. Hot on its heels is “Pissed Me Off Again,” the shortest song on the album at just over two minutes in length, which is a return to the sound that Instruction opened the record with.
At this point, Instruction makes things interesting, first with “Death to the Four Car Garage Band.” Despite a chorus that only has one real line, the band makes it work, thanks in large part to Shepherd, who hits high notes with unexpected ease. In this song he does it in a way that is refreshingly catchy, something this band usually wasn’t. This song leads right in to the highlight of the album, the arabesque “Feed the Culture.” Completely out of left field, it is the softest track, featuring Arabic strings and percussion, vocal harmonies, and no loud guitars. Some could argue it runs about a minute longer than is has to, but really it’s just more of a good thing. After such a good song, it could be expected that the next song might be easily forgotten, but “Your Punk Sucks” deserves some credit. Though it isn’t immediately discernable from the other fast and loud songs, those paying attention will notice what makes this song good. The lyrics are filled with contempt for bands that are rip-offs and don’t realize how un-unique they actually are; a bold choice for a band who could be labeled as post-grunge, but Instruction has the abilities to back up such a message. Other band’s punk sucks, Instruction’s punk is good, and they throw in a guitar solo to prove it.
After the throwaway, “Types to Exceptions,” is the anthemic “Three Stops Short of Dagenham” which does a pretty good job at making me want to throw my fist in the air, and that is followed by the closing track “God Doesn’t Care If We Blow Up the World.” Running closer to eight minutes long than seven, it is by far the longest song on the album, and the band uses all of that time to move through a few different passages. The first four minutes are the main part of the song, with a typical verse-chorus-verse structure; this is followed by a section that is almost spoken word, and definitely sacrilegious, and this section leads into about a half minute of Shepherd singing A Capella high notes, before the song erupts again for the coda, which features one of the most brutal and best moments on the record.
God Doesn’t Care is far from a perfect release; the songs do not work as well separately as they do together and some times it can be hard to listen to, but any fan of heavy rock and grunge should give this a listen, as it does contain some better than good moments. A diamond in the ruff, it is a shame Instruction didn’t get the buzz they deserved.