Category: Alt. / Rock / Industrial
Album: Crazy Eyes
Blurb: 20 years after the band’s debut, Filter’s seventh album successfully captures the seething industrial/rock spirit with which it came kicking and screaming into the world.
While always a band that skated the fine line between mainstream appeal and underground credibility, Filter has been making a marked shift toward a more experimental shift lately, continuing to balance melodic songwriting with aggressive sonic textures. 2013’s The Sun Comes Out Tonight showed front man Richard Patrick, with assistance from Jonathan Radtke, once again embracing the drum machine and programmed synths, recalling the aesthetics of the band’s earliest recordings without losing the modern production polish or the catchy hooks that have helped to distinguish Filter from the rest of the alternative crowd. Once again employing the crowdfunding model, Filter’s seventh album, Crazy Eyes sees Patrick continuing down this exploratory path, with a new lineup of musicians to support his musical vision.
Rising from a disaffected whisper to an anguished howl as Patrick recites, “I’ve got my reasons and my reasons are sound,” the steadily increasing rumble of overdriven synths and atonal guitar feedback atop a marching drumbeat on “Mother E” immediately sets a brutally grim tone for the album. From this song alone, it’s clear that Crazy Eyes will live up to its title, Patrick’s voice sounding more emotionally vulnerable than ever before, at times threatening to give out completely as if to surrender to an impending lapse in sanity or reason. Songs like “Nothing In My Hands” and “Head of Fire” aptly demonstrate the greater emphasis on caustic synths and industrial atmosphere, the bass-riddled electronic grooves bordering on danceable before exploding into scathing hooks that range from instantly catchy to strikingly obscure, not quite getting stuck in your head immediately, but surely will before the end of the song. “The City of Blinding Riots” and “Tremors” follow a similar formula, but the electronic elements are even more pronounced, while “Welcome to the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)” is perhaps the most haunting track on the album, the ambience created by Patrick’s shaky but emotive voice and the crystalline guitar giving way to a monstrous and monolithic chorus. Despite its title calling back to the band’s first album, “Kid Blue from the Short Bus, Drunk Bunk” is one of the more straightforward rockers on the album, hitting hard with the force of a heavy metal freight train, with other tracks like “Your Bullets,” “Take Me to Heaven,” and “Pride Flag” certainly appealing more to the band’s alternative/rock sensibilities, though not without their own noisy elements helping to stay consistent to the overall tone of Crazy Eyes. “(Can’t She See) Head of Fire, Pt. 2” ends the album with thrums of acoustic amid ghostly synths and vocal harmonies that resonate into a cloudy haze that makes for an effective conclusion.
Not lacking in its softer moments, Crazy Eyes is especially notable for its lack of radio-friendly ballads, which have always been a thorn in the side of many a fan since “Take My Picture” become a hit from the band’s second album in 1999; while this writer has always viewed such ballads as a necessary complement to the heaviness of the rest of Filter’s oeuvre, showcasing a penchant for variety and songwriting ability, it is refreshing to hear them all but removed from this latest album. Also less pronounced are the political diatribes – they’re still present, especially on “Nothing In My Hands” being specifically written about mass shootings in the U.S., but the album’s focus on more introspective issues of human behavior and “the insanity of the human condition” as Patrick has described it makes for a more cohesive feel in the lyrical approach befitting the album’s sonic experimentation. 20 years after Short Bus, Filter has successfully captured with Crazy Eyes the seething industrial/rock spirit with which it came kicking and screaming into the world.