October 5, 2010

RoBeast Review: David Archuleta - The Other Side of DOWN

You asked for it, The Internet, and you got it. David Archuleta released an album today, and it's streaming on AOL Music. This guy was apparently on American Idol. That's the extent of my knowledge of this feller. I am naturally assuming that he sucks, based on that shitty looking album cover. Let's see if he proves me wrong.

The first song is pretty much his voice (which I am finding to be annoying) accompanied by some steady muted guitar and a minimal, dancepop electronic rhythm track. If it sounds familiar to you, it's because Kelly Clarkson, Pink, and your Aunt Tilly used the same formula for their dancepop hits but faster and with more balls. At the part you expect the song to start thumping, it just starts... I don't know... queefing? There's absolutely no edge to this music whatsoever. There's even less substance, unless you counts the words "down," "oh," and "yeah," as substantial.

This song, by the way, is called "The Other Side of Down." The album is also called The Other Side of Down. Knowing that I'm on the other side of down just makes me want to back to the other other side...

...which is just plain old Down. Fortunately, Down is releasing an album today too, so I'm going to listen to that instead. I have Down's first album, NOLA, and I think it kicks a fair amount of ass. I don't know how many albums they've put out since the mid-'90s, but it's clearly enough to allow for a live album where I only recognize a handful of titles. Diary of a Mad Band is the name of the collection. Let's see how mad they are.

"Losing All" starts with a riff similar to the start of their debut album, but then Phil Anselmo lets out a pretty shitty off-key howl, and I know it's not the same song. Even if Phil is an angry dude, I never really thought of Down as "a mad band." The middle of the song has some more off-key howls, and phlegmy, muffled yelling. Then the audience joins in, just as far off key. The music is typical Down--southern influenced metal with duel guitar action--which is why I can keep listening.

The next song, "Lifer" is dedicated to Dimebag Darrell... "and all of our brothers that have lost their way along the fucking path of life." Sort of a tainted dedication, if you ask me. Dimebag didn't exactly lose his way in life--he was senselessly murdered onstage by a mentally disturbed kid.  Anyway, I remember liking this song, but Phil just can't yell like he used to. He keeps bailing on the awesome "I'm staring right back at myself" part to let the audience sing it. He does gather a little more steam in the middle, but then bails again.

The third song is dedicated to "everybody in this mother fucking place, as usual, because that is why we are here." I'm not trying to slam Phil Anselmo by pointing out his crazy stage banter. It's really entertaining to me that he introduces his songs like Wesley Willis used to. "Lysergic Funeral Procession" is "off of the second god damned record," which means I don't know it.  The catchiest part is when Phil says the title during the song in a deep scary voice. Halfway through, it totally Black Sabbaths into a different song. 

I once saw a band that used Phil Anselmo stage banter samples in between their songs. They didn't speak at all, they just let Phil ramble for them for a few minutes at a time. It was awesome. Once he gets going, he is filled with a golden stream-of-semiconciousness. Before the fourth song starts, however, the band seizes its chance to show it can improvise too. As the European audience claps a little beat, Down jumps in and jams for a minute. They probably could have gone on for a while because there's a lot of talented musicians in the band. I mean, gee whiz, they're a supergroup after all!

"Rehab" is another one I remember really liking from the first album, but Phil is shitting it up a bit with more consistently off-key vocals. The strong melodic guitar leads just make it more obvious.

"Temptation Wings" is "off of the first god damned record" and is another one shitted up once the vocals start. Such a shame because this a killer song. "Smoke that hash, smoke that dope" Phil says during the slower bridge. Yeah, kids, smoke that hash if you don't want to be able to sing your own songs in 15 years. I'm actually tempted to go back to David Archuleta.

More talking. Phil says no one understands the second god damned record. Then goes into more off-key vocals for "Ghosts and the Mississippi."  He ends on key, but out of steam. Then he feels the need to go for one more unnecessary "yeah" to finish off the track, and it's terribly off key. I can't believe there are ten more songs.

"Learn From This Mistake" is mellow and much better for Phil's vocal range. Unfortunately, it's a pretty repetitive tune with a long guitar solo.

"Hail the Leaf" starts out solid, and just as I was about to say that Phil finally sounds warmed up, I think he blew it out again. Jinx? Believe me, I know it's not easy to perform vocals, especially not at the aggressive standard he's previously set on record (Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power). Performing live is one thing, if your goal is just to get out your feelings to an audience, but it just doesn't seem worth putting out a live album if vocals are going to be such a distraction. Maybe it's a bad night, I don't know. Maybe their fans don't even care about hitting notes. "Hail the Leaf" ends very strongly, by the way.

I'm not familiar with the track "New Orleans is a Dying Whore," but "Let's eat pussy and drink fucking beer" is a lyric that sounds right at home there. I'll bet David Archuleta's lyrics never approach that level of honesty.

"Lies (I Don't Know What They Say, But...)" is unlike the other Down songs. It's a very playful 3/4 and that's not just referring to the time signature--Phil is only fucking up 3 out of every 4 notes. I wonder if it's a cover or a B-side.

"Underneath Everything" is not particularly noteworthy other than Phil saying "1, 2, Fuck You."

"The Seed" is another pot song Phil isn't singing well. Diary of a Mad Fan.

Last song is "Eyes of the South." "I want to thank every motherfucker, every band, every band that thinks they're doom 'cause they tune down and play slow. It's not what it's about, brother. You gotta have a talented motherfucker up here like me singing. Hah! Until we come back, let me ask you one question--is it OK if Down plays here again soon? [approving cheers] Then fuck this world. Fuck everybody in the world." Somebody singing backup is off-key too.

"If you wanna hear more, you know what to do... Hail Satan." Three song encore. "Jail" is going for a "Planet Caravan" feel, but is so incredibly painful to hear. "Stone the Crow" is a great song that doesn't sound so great live. It lumbers just a tad and Phil gives the vocal job to the audience again. When it's finished, Phil says "I want everyone to catch their fucking breath" so they can think about their final request. I'm sure that's the only reason. "The last song of the night is by a band called Green Day--just kidding." "Bury Me in Smoke" closes out the album. I know this song. It always made me want to sing "Old King Cole was a merry old soul and a merry old soul was he" over the chuggedy main riff. The end.

Well, that was a real chore. I feel like I started this three hours ago. I am positive that I would never buy an album with Phil Anselmo performing live on it. That being said, I think Phil Anselmo absolutely has what it takes to put Henry Rollins and his tough guy spoken word act out of business. I would buy a double album of just his random crowd banter if it existed. I'm sorry that in a band setting his poor singing takes away from the music, because NOLA is a really good album. I thought the unfamiliar material was pretty good too, except for the couple of mellow filler tracks. If it's not obvious by now, skip this live stuff and go right to the studio output.


violet4ever said...

I'm pretty sure you "reviewed" David's album just to prop up your segue to the other album's title. You obviously prefer the beast side of music but a lot of us do not share your taste. David has a niche of being clean and honest in a genre that is swimming in bad values and voices that can't sing without autotune. This is his last album as a teenager and the first pop album he's had some control over and he made the album true to himself with music pop lovers would enjoy. I love the album. And there are plenty of needy fans who would love to have your copy so please consider gifting it.

Ro-Beast Rollie said...

As I suggested in the review, I haven't followed the band Down's history in 15 years, so I was not aware they were releasing an album until I opened up AOL's list of newly released streaming albums. A friend of the blog requested that I review the David Archuleta album, and that was my full intention of the blog post up until I finished listening to the first track of the album. Mid-way through being disappointed with the "Diary of a Mad Band," I actually considered going back to "The Other Side of Down" but ultimately, I just wanted to get the whole thing over with.

My appreciation for good pop music often surprises people, but I can't say that the fact he's a teenager or a clean artist would sway me into conjuring up a positive review. The first song on his album was uninspired and unoriginal, and while it's probably unfair to judge the rest of his album on that alone, my opinion on what I did listen to still stands. The tone and bias of your comment suggests that you wouldn't appreciate hearing my thoughts on the rest of the album anyway, so I guess we're at an impasse.

Violet said...

Thanks for the reply. Could you give the rest of the album a listen even if you don't review it? My favorites are Stomping the Roses (his cowrite with Bryce Avary of A Rocket Summer), Who I Am, Falling Stars (one of the two David didn't cowrite, an Eman/Kelly/Cates song), Parachutes and Airplanes, Look Around, Good Place, My Kind of Perfect. Hope you give it a listen.

Violet said...

I forgot to add sorry about my tone the first time but you did dismiss the album after listening to one track. Archuleta as a person has mellowed my attitude a lot but I am not perfect.