::System of a Down:: Steal This Album!::
System of a Down undoubtedly got the public’s eye after releasing their second, and most popular album, Toxicity
. How would a band so unique and rarely entertaining such as System follow up to their success? Easily, they would release a B-Sides. Now let me clear one thing up; the album isn’t a strict B-Sides album. Some of the songs that were recorded in the studio around the Toxicity
era were leaked. To the fans and the band’s dissapointment, nobody seemed to “dig" this previously unheard material. System made a bold decision to re-record the studio versions of these leaked songs. They wouldn’t redo the songs straight from their original versions, as pirates have already heard these, although in low quality. They changed some of the songs that were leaked, and also added new ones to be certain that even the people who got access to this leaked material would be surprised to hear something new. After recording the older songs plus the new ones, they released their third album, boldly and even ironically titled Steal This Album!
in late 2002. The listener’s thoughts of the album appeared to stretch across all lengths of the spectrum from “New and exciting."
to “Dull and poorly done."
But still, most seemed to enjoy it, even though it may not live up to its predominant big brother Toxicity
System of a Down is infamous for unusual lyrics and they don’t miss the beat here. Chic n’ Stu
, while it is seemingly about “Chicken Stew", they chant about pizza toppings. After they get done chanting about the pizza, they go into what may be the true meaning of the song, Advertising. They begin chanting “Need therapy, therapy, advertising causes…". So it is most likely about the controlling effect that advertising has on our country. Which very possibly explains the pizza reference about naming the toppings, especially since the intro is about complaining that there’s nothing in the refrigerator, so he orders a pizza. Although it’s a good song, it is a very weak intro compared to the previous albums. Suite-Pee
was fantastic choice for their self-titled and the ever popular Prison Song
was considered by many the greatest song on the album.
was really the only successful single that the album released. This sounds more like a rock song that any other rock band would make. For those of you who understand what I mean by this, it doesn’t have that System “style". The real highlight of this song is the vocals. Serj’s fluctuation from the rocking yells in the chorus to the soft spoken verses and interlude. Daron does a decent job too, relative to Daron’s standards. While Daron has nowhere near the vocal abilities of Serj, the harmonizing works well, and he only really sings where it is essential and helps the song. John’s drumming is solid throughout and Shavo’s bass…it gets the job done.
The third song of the album Bubbles
was one of the songs leaked. This song might be one of the catchiest on the album. The chorus is bouncy and the music fits perfectly. This song’s meaning is hard to miss. It is all about the power struggle between the American people, and the American government. They make the point to say that the average joe has practically no power. While this may be inaccurate, it is easy to see where they get the idea, being that very many citizens did not want to be a part of the Iraq war. The title “Bubbles"
is more than likely about how the government (in particular George W. Bush)
is locked in its own bubble where nobody gets out and a select few are allowed in. The song is a great song, but as far as politics go, it could be stronger. But it still gets the point across and does a great job doing so.
System of a Down has always been known to push the political envelope, even doing so in the previous song. Well they turn the power knob all the way to eleven with this next song , Boom!
This was a single, but many radio stations found it to be too “powerful"
for the average FM radio station. This is an anthem to everybody who chooses peace over war. The lyrics take stabs at government, terrorists, and even the tough one, religion. They mention how America has been desensitized by television, which has really affected the way we feel about mass killings and innocent deaths (which bomb’s do a great job of creating). If you really want to get a better hint as to what the song tries to portray, watch the video. The mixture of the emotional content of the lyrics and Serj really makes this song a highlight on the album. The only true downside to the song that I can find is that the song may either be too harsh, too powerful, or maybe even too cliché for some people to tolerate.
is a messing of the words “new guns." The meaning behind this song is not so clear, as the previous songs have been. However it is still a fantastic song. This was another leaked song that System decided to re-record and change around. This is another very catchy song thanks to the pacing and especially the sound of Serj/Daron while saying “New Guns" in the chorus, helped by Dolmayan’s drumming in the background. One of the best interludes can be found here with a very fast sitar playing alongside the rest of the band.
The next song is very cleverly titled. A.D.D.
, is an acronym for “American Dream Denial" while at the same time an acronym for the more popular, but relevant Attention Deficit Disorder. This song begins with a very powerful, and very well worded intro as spoken by soldiers to the government about being in war. The song is about how the American dream has changed in past years. Instead of being a country full of many different races, cultures, and beliefs, it is now a country fueled by power and an overwhelming need to control. The musical showing in this song is fantastic. Maybe even perfect for the song. The emotional lyrics plus the intelligent wording and Serj’s ability to express them how he does makes for one hell of a song. Definitely one of the better on the album.
Now there’s a lot of Americans unhappy with the way our police force is run. Nowadays, most police officers are more interested in filling their quote for the day than actual justice. Now I don’t mean to diss cops, as I know they do what I could never be able to do. But System of a Down however, they would gladly take stabs at them. And they do in Mr. Jack
. Mr. Jack is a homeless person who, like the lyrics clearly state, lives on the side of a freeway inside of a car. He is soon caught by the cops and arrested at gunpoint. The song may be one of the most harsh, due to its extremely suggestive verses which degrade the modern police force. The interlude, containing the lyrics “Little men, big guns, pointed at our heads"
is an obvious representation at the power difference between the average American citizen and the police. Which is good, but when the power becomes less of a duty and more of an advantage, sh*t gets crazy. Possibly one of the most angry endings to a song I’ve heard from these guys, they chant F**k you pig!
enough times to force somebody to commit bestiality. As angry and degrading as it is, it is definitely one of the standout songs of the album and many people’s favorite.
The next single to be found on the album is also one of the strangest. I-E-A-I-A-I-O
is quite possibly the strangest songs on the album. The verses are full of fast, nonsensical tongue twisters (e.g. Peter’s pecker picked another pickle bearing pus*y pepper.)
. The chorus is a chant in the sound of the title, but theres no pauses to make it appear as if that the word is spelled accordingly. It almost appears to be the chant of a cult or other group. Said “aaheeayahayahoh"
at best attempt, the chorus is very abstract. The song could be about many things, and then again that is what System wants us to think about, now isn’t it? There are many theories going around as to the true meaning of the song. From that the chant is an old KKK chant and the “Why?…We light up the sky." bears a burning of the cross meaning, to that it is about freedom and that the chant is a grouping of the noises we make “When we light up the sky on the fourth of July." Of course we can interpret the lyrics many ways, but this is probably the best example of what System of a Down tries to do with giving you the lyrics and you make them what you feel they should be. After the confusion, in the end it is still a fantastic song.
The next song is something we haven’t seen previously. The song 36
is only forty-six seconds long. But for being so short, it does a fantastic job of getting the point across. By listening to the song, it may be hard to determine what the song is about, because Serj delivers hoarse, traditional thrash vocals. Beginning with a heavily distorted guitar intro, Serj begins shouting about television. The song as a whole is about how Americans have grown fond of the television as their source for everything, as opposed to actual socializing. The most known part of the song is when Serj in a really strange voice and pace speaks “Life, So, Unnecessary; which pretty much explains that with television, you dont need a life because the world is right in front of your eyes already. The truth behind the song is almost cryptic, as we all watch TV (I’m making an educated assumption), and I’m sure either you, or somebody you know watches television way more than you should. So the message gets through. Probably the shortest lecture System has ever given.
The tenth track is Pictures
. This song is by far one of the hardest songs to decipher. The chorus is Serj repeating “I’ve got pictures on my mind". While it may be obvious that this might be about pictures, the lyrics have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the song. Not to say they’re there just to be there as System has always been good at burying meanings in f’ed up lyrics, but I cant figure it out. Either way it is still a real rocker. Shavo shows up pretty nicely in this song, which is a nice change of pace. Daron is a fairly good guitarist, but does exceptional here. The trade-off’s from the soft, steady verses to the building interlude, and then to the hard-rock showcase. John Dolmayan has never done a less than fantastic job in my opinion and he doesn’t do any different here. Definitely one of the better rockers on the album.
is another conundrum. It appears from the lyric’s portion of the song that the song is about moving on. Whether the narrator is moving on, or everything else is and he feels left behind, is still a mystery. The melodies featured on this track are really nicely done. Daron on the guitar with the addition of Serj’s anger-ridden vocals are always welcome in the homes of System fans. There is, much like in Pictures
, much variation between the slower verses and the heavier riffs. Daron does a remarkable job using the right guitar melodies and sounds for the feel of the song. The vocals are almost eerie in the verses. This is another one people tend to fall for on the first listen, and you can thank Daron’s guitar for that, as he truly is the highlight of the song.
The next song is probably the king of all of System’s screwed up, lyrical adventures. And if not king, then the almighty queen known as F**k the System
. Please do not let the title turn you off. I know people who never gave this song a shot because they thought it sounded too cliché, but its not. They do a great job of mixing it up so that you don’t get a preaching, but rather an acid trip with a point to it. The memorable guitar intro will lead you right into the pits of insanity. The random gibberish of a verse leads to the only understandable part of the song, which just so happens to be a profane exclamation about f**king the system. The guitars and drumming are very hard in this song. Obviously, by the title, the song means to F the system. By that, he probably means changing something in the system. Knowing System of a Down, the system is probably government, however using that same knowledge it could be something completely different. This is definitely one of the best songs on the album. An all out rock-fest filled with profanity and inaudible verses. Awesome.
After such a song as F**k the System
, one may need to chill for a minute. This is where we reach the song Ego Brain
. This is definitely one of the better, if not best, slower paced song on the album. Probably about a man who realizes everything he thought he knew was wrong after living a life driven on pure ego. The meaning of the song is nothing compared to the musical part of it. One of Serj’s best examples of vocalism. And because the guitars are almost drowned completely except for the rhythm, you can’t really tell that the guitar part for this song is really nicely done and creative. A pretty simplistic bass part and John, once again, dominates the drum set giving us exactly what we want. One of the fan favorites, and for obvious reasons.
is one of the lesser known songs of the album. This is more of a melodic based song, rather than a ballad, or hard rocker, but in-between. Our brain releases theta waves when we are in REM sleep, so it might have to do with dreaming. There is a line about a “midnight ride", so it’s a possibility. Some other lyrics aim toward other explanations however. The song itself is a very good song. The vocals are the high point of the song. Of all the songs, this one seems most filler, however out of the hundreds of unreleased songs and other options, it would make sense for System to release the song for a reason. Either way it is not bad, but not great. It’s the perfect sorta / sorta not , song.
however is the perfect “definitely" song. This is probably the
fan favorite, of all of them. The ending of Thetawaves
is the perfect fit for the beginning of this song. The best explanation of this song that I’ve heard was that this man is in love with a woman and she sends him mixed signals, so although he says “I know how I feel when I’m around you.", he begins thinking about it and then changes to “I don’t know how I feel when I’m around you." And then he begins to doubt his feelings in the first place. The song is pure vocal and guitar, with some nice ambient violins to set the mood. One of the greater songs on the album, and as far as slower songs go, one of the best System has ever done.
This song is a trip. Streamline
is a good mix of good lyric writing, musical ability, and a musical timeframe that has chameleon-like tendencies. It is always liable to change. There features some vocals that have the same tune as the Nüguns
chorus. As far as System’s closer songs go, this was a good choice. Maybe not as good as P.L.U.C.K. on the self-titled, but still gets the job done, and it does it well. This is a pretty good radio song. The yelling of “I wasn’t there for you" appears throughout the song behind a great guitar tune with some nice sound. The bass again coming through for only the second notable time. But while it’s a good song, it doesn’t quite compete with the others on the album like F**k the System
, and Mr. Jack
. But as a closer, it has its own special spot in the album.
Serj Tankian - Vocals
As far as vocal talent goes, this man is at the top of the list. He can really stretch his vocals chords and go from hard, violent screams to soft, comforting vocals. As far as his voice on the album, its nothing we haven’t heard before. But I don’t see anyone else being able to pull off what he can in most of System’s songs anyway. He comes through, impressing us yet again.
Shavo Odadjian - Bass
This guy looks cool, but so far has only given us decent bass work. He is definitely skilled, but compared to the abilities of fellow band mates Serj and John, he just seems like a third wheel. However he does do a very good job on the album. Showing us some nice work on Streamline
, he managed to deliver.
Daron Malakian - Guitar
This man does two things exceptionally well. He can play a guitar, and he can write incredible lyrics. One thing he can’t do however is sing by himself. That aside, he does a great job on this album. These were his pre singer spotlight days, so when he sings, the harmonization of him and Serj comes together flawlessly. His speed and creativity really helped with the album, as like all the other albums they’ve done.
John Dolmayan - Drums
This man is amazing. One of the hardest parts of being a good drummer is being able to control all parts of your body to maintain a rhythm that sounds good and John Dolmayan must’ve been born with this ability. He delivers in all of his songs, but he was really a crucial part of this album. His speed and creativity made some songs much more than songs. It is really enjoyable to listen to him and he does nothing to disprove that in this album throughout.
-The Goods & The Bads-
--More Great Lyrics
--Gives Us More Great Songs
--Shows The Better Part of the Soft Side
--Nowhere Near The Greatness of the ST or Toxicity
--Shavo…Where Are Ya?
--Features some Great Songs. Decent Songs Appear to be Lacking in the Greatness