Review Summary: Thought Industry ditch the metal and focus their sights on creating weird, progressive songs within the context of alternative rock.
I like a lot of alternative music, but find that it quickly becomes boring due to a structure and sound that is largely similar from band to band, and that is why the latter Thought Industry albums were always such a breath of fresh air. For those that don’t know of the band, I could begin this review with a rehash of Thought Industry’s history and then go on and on about how great the first two releases from this band are. I could then gush for hours about the uniqueness and awesome musicianship found on those two progressive metal albums, but it would all be a waste of your time because stylistically those albums have very little bearing on this, their third release. Where the first two were unabashedly metal in nature, the final three albums (this being the first of the three) saw them explore alternative rock but with a complete disregard to any rules or conventions.
There could be many reasons for this sudden stylistic shift, but personnel changes may have had something to do with it. The first original member to jump ship was phenomenal drummer Dustin Donaldson who left the band to concentrate on other musical interests (I am Spoonbender
). His replacement, Jared Bryant, is a good drummer but he just doesn’t have the same flair and exciting style that Dustin did. This is also the album where vocalist/bass player Brent Oberlin stopped playing bass and focused on just being the front man. To put this line up adjustment into perspective it would be the equivalent of Les Claypool (Primus
) deciding to focus on vocals and bringing in Tom DeLonge (Blink 182
) as his replacement on bass. Basically, it’s just a huge step down in the bass department and a decision I always wished they had reconsidered.
Even though I spent the last paragraph outlining the drop in musicianship that the new members brought with them, that is more a reflection of the high standard the original members set more then it is a reflection of any lack of quality on the new guys’ part. The music contained on this album is still great, and the opening track “Love is America Spelled Backwards” proves that by delivering a weird hybrid of Nothingface
and The Pixies
. The song might initially seem pretty basic with its simple punk-like structure and riffs that seem relatively straight-forward, but additional listens reveal subtle nuances that prove they hadn’t lost their progressive edge, but that it had merely gone underground. Lyrically Brett is still in top form as well, singing about getting drunk with his girlfriend while attending a funeral, culminating in an altercation with the reverend before finally passing out on the body.
Later songs follow the same strategy of using simple song structures and filling them with subtle nuances and various musical influences and moods. A song like “The Squid” displays a very bouncy indie/Pixies leaning but combines it with random noises and lo-fi synth over which Brett spouts off more of his inane alcohol-fueled lyrics. On the other hand there are songs such as “Sharron Sours” which brings out more of a Radiohead
influence complete with a chill slow-moving tempo and spacey synth on the verses and combines it with an old-school hardcore vibe during the chorus. The rest of the songs all fall somewhere within the realm of description given for the tracks already mentioned, from the lo-fi synth and alternative leanings to the occasional old-school hardcore shout and other varied vocal deliveries, but each song combines those elements in a unique way that gives them their own identity.
Despite my attempt to explain this album using a few songs as examples, the album is varied enough that only a track by track would really be able to specifically explain all the subtle nuances and various elements contained within. Needless to say, this is still Thought Industry complete with the angry alcohol-fueled outbursts and strange musical ideas. The big difference is that this time the band has stripped down to a more basic alternative rock structure where the songs don’t abruptly change direction ten times in a minute but they have also crammed more elements into this new structure. If this even remotely sounds interesting I’d suggest tracking it down and then moving on to their entire back catalog because you won’t be disappointed.