System of a Down

Steal this Album !
/columbia; 2002/

rating : 8



more info:

December 20th.

Neon signs have appeared in my neighborhood in the last week and I suppose it means that joy is in the air. Stupid kids come and go, trying to sell out their football team calendars to us bunch of old creeps. It’s the end of the year and this always means a lot to me. First, I know I will have to eat my salmon and caviar alone on the last evening of the year, once again, because the girl who’s on my mind is more beautiful than the one who’s in my bed : glory and consequences. Then, I know I will shit on the first day of the new year the same shit I always shit the other days, so what’s the point in eating salmon and caviar ?


Happy new year

Now the review.

First I was afraid, I was petrified. To release an half official b-sides album is a bad sign in my opinion, one of those stupid things you do just before releasing a live CD or a greatest hits, split up and then crawl back to a quiet anonymous life in North Dakota or Idaho. Hopefully I am wrong for SOAD because these b-sides could have made a perfect full length commercial album. By the way, these are not b-sides, just unreleased songs I think.

But then the artwork deceived me because there is no artwork at all, no booklet and no colors. I’ve seen that there are special editions covers made by each member of the band but I ain’t got one of these. Anyway, the CD triggers a special connection on the net where you can find the lyrics and full credits, I ll make a cover myself.

In spite of this visual and mental foreplay, ‘Steal This Album’ is the CD I have been listening to the most in the last 2 weeks and I no longer wish to get back rapidly my copy of Toxicity lent to a former hair guy. I must admit that even if ‘Toxicity’ widely introduced SOAD to the world, it was not as good as the first album, and as a matter of fact ‘Steal this Album’ is much more a sequel to the first album than to the second. The songs are harsh, brutal, inventive ( as usual ) and stained with humor you can only find on unreleased material. I already knew a couple of songs on it but most of the 16 tracks are clearly never heard before material; bits and pieces of songs repeatedly ring a bell in my mind as to confirm that these songs were recorded during the same recording session of the first albums.

“Chic n stu” is an enthusiastic ode to pizza pie. Something like “pepperoni’s on my mind” you see ? It’s concise and efficient, with melodic backing vocals and an energetic basic riff. There is a small part that makes me think of Queen, but how will I explain that to my analyst ? “Innervision” is one I already knew, nothing revolutionary but anyway it works. When Godsmack & Co try to do this it is shit so why do I like it that way ? it is not only because of the terrific vocals Mr Wood. “Bubbles” is divided between an oriental guitar gimmick on the verse that they had already experienced before and powerful chorus. The songs are short, generally between 2 and 3 minutes, you ain’t got time to worry about the turkey in the oven. “Boom” is deeply political protest : every time you drop the bomb / you kill the god / your child has gone / why must we kill our own kind ? Plus a lot of lines on the almighty “they”. The music is rather simple this time, verse chorus verse chorus, and then arrives a striking dark Black Sabbathean bridge that knocks me down each I listen to the song, it is a shame it is too short. “Nuguns” looks like the one before, plus natural harmonics and a surprising banjo solo over an overdriven part. “Mr Jack” sounds like some of Tool’s long electric odyssey, clean and soft melodic parts that are counterbalanced with heavy violent explosions. I only happened to notice now that there are a lot of backing vocals on all these songs. In fact, it is almost a 2 singers work, not only simple background vocals. “I-E-A-I-A-I-O” was inspired by the tv show the Knight Rider I think because solo copies the musical theme of the series, as simple as that (A former cop / undercover cop / shot in the face ; if you know the tv show you understand the reference). One last thing, the title is only the phonetic transcription of what he says on the chorus. Who said it was hard to write lyrics? Later arrives ‘Roulette’, one of my favourite even if it has almost nothing to do with the classical SOAD tunes. Well, this one is an acoustic ballad with cello and words of love ( I know how I feel when I am around you...). This song is an opportunity for Dave Rebel and I to sing along together with our post mature baritone voices, join hands and wait. Maybe I am turning romantic at last.

I won’t talk about the rest of the album, I think you got the point. A real fucking good record that makes you bob your head like an epileptic white trash teenager.

-Angus Anderson

/jan 15th 2002/