Hmm... Major label punk rock...
Now I don't want to get into a big argument about punk, for fear of a legion of "misunderstood" and green-haired adolescents informing me that "Offspring rocks and your [sic] gay", but I have to point out that it could be argued that someone who is signed to Virgin, friends with Ross Robinson and on the cover of the NME can't really have much to be pissed off about. After all, that's the reason people don't like The Offspring, isn't it?
But ignore me, I'm just drinking Devil's Advocaat. Ross Robinson has pronounced this "The most brutal record ever released on a major label" and, while I'm not the world's ultimate authority on either major labels or brutal records, I might just agree with him there.
Musically, it seems fairly straightforward, but it's deceptively hard to pin down. Try Slayer's ill-advised but oh-so-satisfying punk phase. Or At The Drive-In without the irritating squeaky bits. And lots of venom (that's actual venom, not the comedy black metal trio). It's not groundbreaking, but Robinson's production, as always, makes it sound refreshing.
Thematically, it's remarkably close to Marilyn Manson's "Holy Wood..." Both albums feature spiky attacks on American society, often with tongue firmly embedded in cheek. No doubt some muppet will take opener "CK Killer" seriously, and think Chaos really is declaring Calvin Klein to be a murderer, in the same way that some muppets take Marilyn Manson's lyrics to mean "Walk into school and shoot people. Go on, you know you want to..." But, to Chaos, this won't matter. This kind of misunderstanding simply proves his point. American society is decomposing, and American people grow more stupid by the minute.
The sleeve uses similar imagery to Manson, although it's nowhere near as gothic. Children dressed as soldiers, a young girl with a machine gun and crown of thorns standing in front of the White House... it's not subtle, but it's not supposed to be. And the almost pythonesque back cover, with its wings-on-bombs and cut 'n' paste typewritten text makes it look like an eighties Napalm Death album. It just screams "seminal" at you.
Back to the music then. Despite the vehemence and vitriol, there are some bloody massive catchy choruses here. New single "The Price of Reality" is a pop song disguised by layers of noise, and "The Wating 18" is the teen anthem "My Generation" so desperately wants to be. Even less accessible songs like "Mayday" and Take My Head", both of which seem unremarkable at first, take only a few listens to embed themselves in your consciousness.
It doesn't take a genius to work out what songs with titles like "Dead on the Bible" and "Ungrateful Dead" are all about, and admittedly, they aren't saying anything new. But at least they are saying something, and meaning it. On the weaker tracks, the passion of the playing ensures that they never become anything less than entertaining.
Just trying to pick a favourite track is difficult. At least half of the tracks stand out in their own way: the short, sharp burst of "CK Killer", the disturbing hatred of "In Your Suit", the frenzied screaming of "Piss Virus"... the list goes on. "Too Hard to be Free" sounds like Warrior Soul with a bit less sleaze, and "Refuse Amen" builds on a rumbling bass riff, and becomes probably the loudest song on the album, in just under three minutes. "Here's the Poison" is Amen's equivalent of the longer, slower songs that 99% of albums seem to end with these days - it clocks in at just over four minutes.
There's a definite continuity in the sound, and a lot of the songs sound very similar in that way that classic punk songs do. And it's not a bad thing - it makes the album flow relentlessly but coherently, building upon itself to make something greater than the sum of its parts. And in an age when so many albums are random collections of songs with no cohesion, this can only be a good thing. At forty-five minutes long, it doesn't get tedious, but it more than satisfies.
10Nick Lancaster.'s Score