Review Summary: Filter's first album, and the only one worth owning.
Four years after his brother went back in time to kill John Connor, Richard Patrick set out on his own mission to put out a record into the growing mainstream industrial world. T1000 (Robert Patrick) never would end up killing John Conner, but his brother (Richard) would succeed in releasing a semi-hit record. By doing so, Patrick would establish himself as an individual entity, apart from the shadow-casting beast in which he got his start. With little room for artistic growth as a founding member of the stifling live incarnation of Nine Inch Nails, guitarist Richard Patrick would walk out on Trent in favor of starting a new, similarly short-staffed mainstream industrial band. A two-man operation, consisting of the recently NIN-defected Patrick and guitarist/programmer, Brian Liesegang, early Filter was rough stuff. There were no pretty songs about taking pictures on their first album. The few tracks on Short Bus
that aren't a distortion assault come across as bitter and sarcastic acoustic-strummed ballads put in place to fill the ballad quota. The heart of this record is in the venom and dirt contained within the harsh, gritty vocals of Patrick and the highly distorted blend of drop-D power-chords and low, heavy bass, creating a harsh wall of noise effect that has a good kick and sounds plenty angry. The sound Patrick and Liesegang created on Short Bus
wasn't too far off from the Nine Inch Nails' style employed during the Broken
era in which they met. A reverse-engineering of industrial, Filter's Short Bus
focused more around rough and heavy guitar riffs than the programming and electronic instruments more commonly employed by the genre.
The album opens as the lowest bass notes in standard tuning rumble a moody riff before Richard Patrick's emotionless sing/speak vocal leads into the well known pre-chorus commentary, “That's why I say 'Hey man, nice shot.'”
. The song displays everything Filter could do right. A dark, menacing sound, a dirty atmosphere, an understated delivery, and then full out assault chorus, rooted in simple, punk-like power-chord progressions with the echo of a concrete room. The future Filter would never be this dark or angry again. Richard Patrick would still employ his scream, while trying to stretch his vocals into more mainstream areas of rock. “Hey Man, Nice Shot”
represents the best (and only really good) era for Filter. Follow-up single, “Dose,”
offers the same unique blend of contempt and hostility, providing the listener with a refreshing foray into loud and pissed-off territory. While it doesn't have the same kind of radio appeal as its predecessor, it does offer an equally satisfying listen to those with an affection for sloppy, haphazard and generally irresponsible listening material.
While the majority of tracks on Short Bus
maintain a respectable level of quality, one unignorable fault of the album would have to be its lyrics. Similar in guitar sound to the album's early tracks, and with programmed percussion resembling “Gave Up,”
off NIN's Broken
is an otherwise excellent song, until it reaches the point in which he rhymes a word with itself for no discernible reason. “Gerbil”
is a forgettable late track in which lyrical standards start to take a dive. “He gets out of bed / He goes to the room / He turns on the set / He is as smart as a broom.”
The late chorus does little to improve: “Hey you dumb ass / How'd you lose us? / Hey you headless / Why'd you screw us?”
And lastly, album closer, “So Cool,”
is a track in which you can get a sense of the lyrical quality by the title alone. Not cool at all.
Unfortunately, Filter stopped being a cool band after Short Bus
. The band's early era would be stretched for a good four years, two of which they toured in support of the album, and then another two spent contributing to soundtracks. “Jurassitol”
was a great addition to the early Filter song catalog off The Crow: City of Angels
soundtrack. A mostly overlooked single, the recording stood up to the power of the early Short Bus
tracks and gave no indication that Filter was going to let up on their sound in the near future. The Spawn
soundtrack would see the band pair up with The Crystal Method for more great work in the form of “(Can't You) Trip Like I Do?”
Filter's sound would go on a quick decline thereafter, as Richard Patrick would be left the lone creative member of Filter with Brian Liesegang leaving the band over creative differences. Whatever differences they had, Brian seemingly took with him the sound that gave Filter their edge. 1998's cover of Three Dog Night classic, “One,”
was a choice selection, but a forgettable remake which lacked the bite of everything that came before it. This more produced, less primal sound would be carried onto Filter's overdue follow-up, Title of Record
. The album would be a huge success, producing an MTV TRL hit in “Take A Picture,”
and is probably still remembered fondly by aging teeny-boppers to this day. But the sound had gone soft. Filter's early days had passed, even worse albums were released as the years went on and the public's taste for the band grew less and less. But when listening to Short Bus
, one could easily look back and wonder, “Where'd it all go wrong?”