Review Summary: Generic '90s post-grunge.
I've always had a feeling of resentment toward the post-grunge genre. I enjoy the Foo Fighters' early work, perhaps because Dave Grohl actually was a grunge musician, but awful bands like Bush and Creed just make me want to run over my iPod with a pickup truck. However, in its early incarnations we had some pretty enjoyable post-grunge bands such as the aforementioned Foo Fighters, Candlebox, and the often-forgotten Live. One thing you need to be warned about before giving this album a listen: the singles were overplayed to hell, so you've probably already heard them especially the biggest offender, "Lightning Crashes" (which was actually the worst of the singles): You'll probably find yourself liking the non-radio material more than the singles. Another glaring thing about Throwing Copper is that there's not really a lot of variety between songs besides fast & slow tempos and the bass lines. The guitars will typically play similar sounding progressions and the drumbeat is boring and predictable 100% of the time. The vocals are definitely the high point of the record with Ed Kowalczyk saving some of the more boring songs such as "All Over You" and "Waitress", both of which are blatant and obvious filler. Now let's delve a bit deeper into the musical content of Throwing Copper:
As boring and unoriginal as some songs can sound on here (specifically on the first half of the album), opening track "The Dam at Otter Creek" is pure brilliance. The fuzzy organ sound adds true atmosphere to the already eerie soundscape as Kowalczyk's beautiful vocals slowly overtake the mix. Once the whole band comes in about halfway through the song it has already exploded into a post-grunge masterpiece (this is my favorite off the album in case you couldn't tell yet) with Chad Gracey actually playing a (slightly) interesting drumbeat for once and the guitars in full throttle. However "The Dam At Otter Creek" made one glaring mistake: it set my expectations too high. This song was way too good to be the opening track as the middle of the album will seem totally inferior compared to it. We won't get a song as good as this until the end of the album unfortunately, and what we get instead are a bunch of poppy radio singles. "Selling the Drama" is super repetitive after about half the running time (which is its downfall considering it's only 3 1/2 minutes long) and it's already been overplayed to crap on the radio so you're probably already familiar with it: chances are it won't do anything for you. "I Alone" and "Lightning Crashes" are 2 of the weakest points on the record, experimenting with soft dynamics and loud choruses and to be quite honest both attempts fall flat on their faces, "Lightning Crashes" being the worst attempt at grunge on the whole record. With lyrical what the hell was that's such as "and her placenta falls to the floor" my expectations were already low and I was still disappointed. Plus I heard both songs over a billion times when I was growing up which didn't add any new dimensions to their bland sellout musical content. "Iris" is the grunge sound done right. Only taking up the soft dynamic for one line during the chorus "I like the way my hand looked on your head" the song explodes with driving drums, a killer bass line and fantastic vocals: Kowalczyk is often left to keep the songs running until their end but the band works as a cohesive whole on this track keeping me interested. "Top" and "All Over You" continue our descent into mediocrity with "Top" being generic and maybe even annoying: the boring drumbeats are really starting to get on my nerves by this point and this song doesn't help at all: I need some originality, guys! "All Over You" is another radio single and while it's better than the previous two singles it still doesn't accomplish anything in its surprisingly bloated 4 minutes. That's the thing that annoys me about the album most: almost every song on the first half of the album is quick, unoriginal and quite forgettable to be honest.
However the second half of the album is a whole different story. "*** Towne" lets you know the second half will be different from the start with the band working as a whole once again (not just Kowalczyk saving the band once more) and the musical composition is actually original and innovative. I really enjoy this song: it's kind of your reward for sticking through the lazy and generic first half. The bass line is once again stellar (that's the one thing you can count on throughout the whole record: the bass will be satisfying) and the guitar riff is catchy and once again a success at emulating grunge aspects. "T.B.D." (short for Tibetan Book of the Dead) is an eerie, atmospheric piece similar to the Dam at Otter Creek with a slow, cross-stick led drum beat leading the band into a 4 1/2 minute crescendo that could scare the pants off anyone if they were listening to the album at 1 AM in the dark (which I tend to do with a lot of albums). "T.B.D." is a fantastic song. Live seems to know how to do slow and spooky better than fast and grungy: perhaps they should start taking pointers from Alice in Chains and not Nirvana. "Stage" is the only faster song on the album that fully satisfies, being 3 minutes of pure energy with another amazing bass line and ridiculously good vocals. The lyrics are a step back from the spiritual drivel found on the rest of the record and it proves that Kowalczyk knows how to write on more than one subject. "Waitress" is the second half's only misstep, being an obvious filler that breaks the whole mood you were in after the 3 great songs that came before it. Fortunately the song goes as quickly as it came being less than 3 minutes, but nevertheless it will leave a sour taste in your mouth as you move forward into the final 2 tracks. "Pillar of Davidson" is just plain awesome. Once again a slow burner, this 7-minute monolith will grab a hold of you and it doesn't let go until it's beaten you senseless, something you usually don't associate with a slower song. But the raw emotion found on this song isn't overwrought and fake like on other songs, this is real pain and sorrow formed into a song. Magnificent. The closer "White, Discussion" is equally impressive, and despite unoriginally written parts for the rhythm section screwing the song over once again, the vocals and guitar are extremely solid and it overall serves as a satisfying closer. Oh there's also a hidden track, but my CD is 18 years old and I can't listen to it because it skips.
This album is definitely pretty good the first time you hear it, but the emotional effect of the first listen will mostly leave you after 5 or 6 plays, save a few songs. The album is definitely generic and annoying at some parts especially the first half of the album, and most of it just feels like you're listening to '90s radio. But there a few post-grunge gems in here you can't miss, and I highly recommend listening to all the recommended tracks below this paragraph. Thanks for reading guys, I really appreciate it.
The Dam at Otter Creek
Pillar of Davidson