Review Summary: Driven by anger, frustration and deceit, this is Richard biting society's neck
Richard Patrick has promised a return to roots ever since he started The Trouble With Angels
sessions in late 2008. At the time, the respective album was indeed Filter’s finest hour in just over a decade. Then, with The Sun Comes Out Tonight
came a similar one, however, the results were significantly polished when compared to its precursor. Both LPs are fine additions to his catalog, containing several strong tracks that I’d place among the band’s best. Bob Marlette captured that raw sound, producing it just enough to be appealing to casual fans as well as radio stations. Even so, let’s face it, by today’s standards they are too heavy, whereas the lyrics are at times sharp for mainstream. It worked in the ‘90s when you had heavy songs on rotation, but now Coldplay and Empire Of The Sun are at the top of the Alternative Rock charts.
Now, what do we actually want from Patrick? We want him raging against the world because that attitude produced his best tunes. Unfortunately, lots of fans vehemently herald Short Bus
as his magnum opus period. Yes, it laid the foundation for Title of Record
(which I still believe is the most essential achievement), yet it failed to hold the listener’s attention until the very last second. Not to mention Richard’s vocals were often subpar, but, thankfully, matched the manic atmosphere. Also, we want him to branch out, think outside the box. The last couple of albums are really good in my opinion, but a bit formulaic. As a result, I’m glad Crazy Eyes
finally goes off road, thus offering some pleasant surprises along the way.
The first step and possibly the most important overall is that Richard handled the production this time around. Moreover, he brought a new set of musicians, including a keyboard player, to help him out. I can’t really tell what had a stronger impact, as the nature of the ideas is the most compelling in a long while. Patrick has always tackled with uneasy subjects that revolved around substance abuse, war, politics, racism, dysfunctional families among others. Crazy Eyes
continues the trend, focusing on frustration, anger, plus tales of people’s unexplainable behavior like insanity or plain violence to name a couple. While not really a poet, the passion in his words has always led to admirable, sincere moments or opinions. Such is the case of the groovy, bass heavy ‘Take Me To Heaven’, one of the straightforward cuts here, which shares his thoughts regarding the death of his father. Along with main highlight, ‘Nothing In My Hands’, these are both accessible and retain the record’s dark atmosphere. The latter’s industrial edges offer haunting sequenced synthesizers over pounding drums, soon joined by powerful guitars. The story behind ‘Nothing In My Hands’ is the Ferguson & Michael Brown case, where a white policeman shot an unarmed 18-year old black man under strange circumstances. Besides the two, ‘Your Bullets’ is another familiar piece with dirty riffs that soften for an epic chorus, a feature that never gets old in Filter’s discography. Now that raucous vocals are employed for a significant amount of the tracks, melodic ones are even more welcomed.
Moving on to the peculiar side of Crazy Eyes
, there are a handful of songs that finally deliver that change waited for years. Right from the beginning, ‘Mother E’ creates an uncanny atmosphere omnipresent throughout the record. Like some ramblings of an insane serial killer, vocals range from falsetto whispers to screams set really well over distorted, dissonant riffs. Short pauses in between with faint kick beats feel like heartbeats, building tension. The song makes more sense within the album’s context than listened to separately. ‘Tremors’ is another rager, bringing to mind Marilyn Manson’s ‘Burning Flag’ only a touch more sensitive. It’s been a while since the bass had such a considerable role on a Filter record. Whilst Ashley Dzerigian comes from an indie rock/pop environment, she adapted really well here. Meanwhile, ‘City of Blinding Riots’ is an electronic canvas for Patrick’s anger, complete with street speeches samples. The contrasting instrumental represents arguably the furthest this band has ventured into electronic territory, as it could easily be remixed into a disco tune.
In order to tone down things a bit, we get a few moments of relief like ‘Welcome To The Suck (Destiny Not Luck)’ and ‘Under The Tongue’. The former is a post-apocalyptic tune that reminisces Front Line Assembly’s forays on Civilization
. The softer vocals work nicely here, aiming for a mournful moment amid bitter outings. ‘Under The Tongue’, an instrumental experiment, cranks the bass again, boasting tribal patterns and occasional guitar riffage. Towards the finale, the sound gets manipulated, oscillators giving way to the closing reprise ‘(Can’t She See) Head of Fire, Pt. 2’. Painting a depressing scene that eludes hope, this acoustic ditty feels like a comedown. It isn’t designed to be anthemic, but it offers the album a fitting coda. The windy synths that end the track sound like currents passing through a derelict warehouse.
Hype has always had its downsides and Richard has a knack for building substantial amounts for each new record. Still, this time the man actually delivered promised changes. Crazy Eyes
is driven by the deceitful side of today’s society, whether applied to America or any other region. The music reflects this, creating a journey that for nostalgics resembles most Short Bus
, albeit in an updated form. At the same time, the less polished production might be a turn off for some. In spite of that, I believe this is the way the album should present itself. Though harder to digest on a first listen, these songs gradually get under your skin, revealing one of Filter’s greatest LPs to date.