Before I start, I want to say something about the nature of this album. A lot of people on this site are saying stuff like "well, it isn't strictly a B-sides record...". Stop fooling yourselves. This is an album of songs that didn't make it onto their other CDs. How else would you classify a B-sides record? Because of that, this album is going to be inherently worse than anything else System has put out (but it's still better than Hypnotize, which shows you how bad they've gotten). While there are a few really great songs on here, there are also some terrible ones. For the most part though, this album is chock-full of average songs. Shavo evaporated on this album, leaving John, Serj, and Daron to carry the load. With one half of the beat-making team gone, John performs very well. This album portrays the lighter side of System of a Down, a lot more melodic songs on here. While Toxicity showed traces of them lightening up, this album really cemented them as alt-rock instead of metal/thrash. While there have been a lot of just criticisms of their lyrics on Mezmerize/Hypnotize, this album thankfully has rather good lyrics. Still a lot of metaphors, but some songs go entirely metaphor-free, which is really good to hear from this band.
As many of you know, this album was released because many of these songs were released onto the internet. Instead of forcing their fans to illegally download these songs, System released this album. They actually went through editing and cutting steps, instead of just releasing crappy, unedited tracks as some bands do. In fact, System of a Down even left off some of the songs that got illegally released there were so many. They ironically titled this album "Steal This Album!", and it was released in late 2002. Here is a track-by-track review of the album.
Chic 'N' Stu
. Like it or not, this song will always be compared to the other System of a Down album openers. And it really doesn't stand up to the likes of Suite-Pee or Prison Song, but that's not to say it's terrible. This song is rather straightforward hard rock, but some slow parts are mixed in to keep it interesting. If you could really complain about the lyrics on this album, this would be the song you would target. There is a awkward mix of really straightforward lyrics "Advertising causes therapy," to lyrics that we can only hope are some kind of metaphor "Pepperoni and green peppers, mushrooms, olives, chives." So overall, this song is pretty average rocker.
. This song is really the only successful single to appear off this album. Surprisingly, I didn't know this was System of a Down when I first heard it on the radio. Their signature sound isn't here in this song, which is somewhat troubling. If you can look past that, this song is great though. Really intelligent lyrics for the most part here, but again all metaphors. What's particularly good about this is that Daron's riffs and John's drumming mesh perfectly, especially during the chorus. A slow part near the end, following pretty much the same formula as Chic 'N' Stu. A very solid song.
. Bubbles is one of the heavier songs on the CD. Again, System draws on their Armenian heritage to create a very good song. You can hear some Arabian man yelling during breaks in the music, such as at 1:26. This song actually sounds a bit like Jet Pilot. This song has a long bridge for a song of its length, and I can't say it is a great bridge. But you can actually hear Shavo during it! That is really good to hear. One of the shorter songs on the album, it is powerful and loud. Pretty fun listen, but not too deep.
. I believe this the only song off of the album to have a music video made for it. Shavo actually delivers a pretty good intro for this song. One major negative for this song: Serj is just talking during the verses. Not singing, screaming, yelling, or (god forbid) rapping. Just talking, and it doesn't rhyme in some areas. However, the chorus is excellent, very loud with some furious speed drumming by John. Not very original lyrics either, it's just a rant against the world. Pretty good section after the verse/chorus is repeated twice, it is loud, and Serj actually sings! That brings up the song's grade quite a bit. Overall, this is another solid song off this album.
. This song sounds very different from every other song on this album, but that is only partially good. Very heavy opening riff and a relatively heavy chorus. The verses are very heavy, and I think are about the differing views on sex from generation to generation, but again lots of metaphors, so I can't be sure. What really makes this song is the sitar in the interlude, that is so cool. But the chorus isn't really good at all, and the verses aren't anything special. Interesting song.
. Hands down, the best lyrical performance on the album. Really cool opening, and the verses are spectacular. "We fought your wars with all our hearts, you sent us back in body parts." Wow. Unfortunately the first section of the chorus has a whiny guitar which just gets on your nerves. Not enough to hurt the song too much though. Daron's riffs on this song are very heavy and murky, but still quality ones. There is a good crescendo during the interlude leading into the final chorus. Overall, a spectacular song. Soooo close to being perfect, but not quite
. Some of the heaviest riffs on this album appear on this song. It opens with a very long intro, which lasts over 50 seconds. In my opinion, the riff on this song is the coolest one on the album. Some really freaky whispered vocals from Serj in this song, adding to the overall dark mood. System decides to go long on this song, at over four minutes. While it may not seem like much, it's easily the longest song on the album. No holes in this song. The ending with Serj screaming "F**k you pig!" is the coolest part. Very anti-police. One of the top three on the album.
. Another heavy song. Probably the most known song off the album, even though Innervision got much more radio play. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the weird title or the incomprehensible lyrics, but this is the most known song off this album among kids at my school. And the lyrics are truly incomprehensible during the verses. All that is made up for by the chorus, which is perfectly easy to understand. It has some heavy riffs and good singing. Weird interlude section, but the last chorus is the heaviest and best. Daron shreds a bit too, good to hear. Almost perfect, but I don't like the vocal delivery or the lyrics. Great instrumentally though.
. Really short, only 46 seconds long. John does really great though, pretty much the only sound is his drumming during the verses. Kind of annoying screaming by Serj, though. Hard to rate, but it really isn't that enjoyable.
. Another intro by Shavo, and it's a pretty good one. Good and heavy, but the lyrics are really stupid. "Can't you look at my shaved a*s?" That's just stupid and juvenile. Really cool heavy part at about 1:20. Good riffs throughout the song from Daron, and John does well again. Another short song, barely over the two-minute mark. One thing that isn't too cool is that Daron takes breaks between his riffs for Serj to deliver his lyrics, kind of in the style of "American Idiot". I don't like that too much. Also, weird chicken clucks during the bridge. This song is all over the place, but nonetheless a really interesting and fun listen.
. Best song on the album, and it is a pretty easy choice. Easily the best drumming on the CD, the band gives John his chance to shine on this song. Only the occasional chord from Daron during the verses, John carries it. The beginning part doesn't have too much substance, the song is really all structured around the stunning final part, which begins at about 2:15. Serj begins to scream "The purest form of life! Our days are never coming back!" It is just hair raising, so spectacular. Overall, this song is kind of like a less epic Chop Suey. The fact that you can relate this to Chop Suey should tell you enough.
F**k The System
. What can you say about this song? Lots of people love it. Pretty much the only pros are that Serj says f**k a lot and the main riff is heavy. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cons. That opening riff that goes for eight seconds is so incredibly annoying. All of the lyrics besides the occasional "war" "f**k the system" or "I need to". Not very complex musically either. A pretty bad song, I think. Many people think otherwise though.
. One of the fan favorites off the album, I don't really have the rabid obsession for it that many other people do. Still a solid song though. Opens up with an acoustic guitar, and this song is very soft. The verses are really quiet, and the chorus is loud, but still gentle. Very cool lyrics, "As I turn to sand, you took me by the hand, and declared that love prevails over all." I think that's a pretty cool line myself. Very original for System of a Down, not their type of lyrics at all. Some shortcomings are the bridge, that isn't too interesting. Also, the riffs aren't too complex or interesting, although they fit the song well. I just can't bring myself to love this song no matter how hard I try.
. This song is probably the weirdest one on the album. The lyrics certainly are weird. "The unsettled mind is at times an ally, leaving the senses to fend for themselves. The senses collect undeniable data, from beta carotene and theta waves." I have no idea what that is about, maybe drugs. The chorus is pretty cool though, and that opening riff is spectacular. I'm not sure if my CD is messed up, but this song ends very abruptly, seemingly in the middle of a chorus at about 2:36. With all of that said, this song feels very disjointed. It doesn't flow well at all, and the guitar gets a bit annoying at times. Interesting song to be sure, but not great.
. The only System song ever recorded that is solely acoustic. No drums, no bass, just Daron on the guitar and Serj on vocals. The acoustic guitar isn't complicated, but it is certainly haunting. Serj tries to be touching and open on this song. While he certainly does this during the chorus, he reverts to his usual metaphors during the verses. Still the most personal song that System has ever made. It has a brief slow, acoustic guitar solo which is a nice touch. System managed to make an acoustic song that doesn't sound like that untalented crap you hear on MTV. The lyrics and guitar melody are far from perfect, but at least it's something different.
. The album closer is also very emotional. One major turn off is how smudgy and poorly edited the guitar sounds. The verses are absolutely haunting, however. Also, the whole band sings the "I wasn't there for you!" part of the hook. Some pretty good drumming at the very beginning of the hook too. A really cool bridge for this song with somewhat of a solo from Daron, which is always good to hear. The overall feel of this song is really good, because the lyrics are so touching and personal. Also, if you look past the smudginess of the guitar, the riffs are also pretty good. Nice way to close up this album.
Overall, this album is what you'd expect from a B-sides. It does have some stunningly great moments, but also some painfully average ones. This should be the last System of a Down album you buy, but don't hesitate if you're a hardcore fan.
1. Highway Song
2. Mr. Jack
2. F**k The System
3. Chic 'N' Stu