Review Summary: Beyond a shadow of a doubt, better than any of its predecessors.
Poor, poor Fuel – ye have been judged badly by history. This alt-rock band really, really could have survived and thrived – after all, they made a massive hit single out of “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” and a pretty decent effort out of “Shimmer” from their first album. The fact of the matter is, Fuel is a band that has at best a cult following comprised of 90’s rock buffs and hardcore alt-rock fans and virtually no reputation good or ill beyond that – their last two albums Natural Selection
(2003) and Angels and Devils
(2007) were met with tepid reception, though the latter in particular got one hell of an asskicking from befuddled fans – and there was good reason for this disdain, as Angels and Devils
was pretty terrible, bereft of the elements that made Fuel great; accessible rock riffs, clean and wistful vocals with enough oomph to catch your attention.
So the question regarding Puppet Strings
: have they done a better job, obviously, or is this just another nail in the proverbial coffin" Yeah, actually – it’s better than anything they’ve done in quite a while. It’s a fairly bold album, as proven on the country-esque “Oh, Mama”, a tune that, despite its Southern seasoning, makes for a very creative and experimental track that serves as the perfect bridge between lead single “Soul To Preach To” and “Time For Me To Stop” – two far faster, grunge-y tracks; the latter’s riffs in particular are so dark and deep-set that it resembles something from the likes of Pearl Jam or even Soundgarden. Following that is probably one of the best songs Fuel has ever done, “Wander”, which revels in an atmosphere combining acoustically-driven and subtle electric guitars that flourish alongside Brett Scallions’ voice – in an album full of great vocal performances by the man, “Wander” in particular stands out.
If one were to find fault in the album, it would be in the same places – sometimes the band focuses too much on being emotive that they go a little overboard with it; “Headache” aims for being a wistful track that hits home but simply cannot stand alongside the power of tracks such as “Wander” or keyboard-driven “Cold Summer”. And sometimes, the sheer amount of ballads (over half of the album) make the album feel too manufactured – and that alone prevents Puppet Strings
from being their best album.
Still, it’s good – damn good. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Fuel has revitalized their sound and crafted material far better and stronger than anything they have put out in a while, even if it still suffers from largely the same problems; it is a beautiful LP that suffers from monotony, and one that sometimes circles the drains for all of its 41 minutes, making it less consistent than albums such as their justly-beloved Sunburn
. For old fans and new fans, however, this does not disappoint in the slightest.