March 7, 2009

CD Review: Filter - The Very Best Things (1995-2008)

In 1993, when Trent Reznor was recording the Nine Inch Nails' classic Downward Spiral, guitarist Richard Patrick, who joined the band as a touring musician in 1989, chose to leave the band. On the surface this would seem to be a foolhardy decision, as the band was just about to blow up. NIN was gaining popularity behind the strength of Pretty Hate Machine and they were going nowhere but up for the foreseeable future. Still, Richard Patrick had a plan, he had his own artistic avenues that he wanted to travel that he would not be able to had he stayed within Rezonr's confines. That same year he formed Filter with Brian Liesegang, who would play guitar and handle much of the programming.

It would be a couple of years, but 1995 saw the band's first release, Shortbus, which was carried by the wild success of "Hey Man, Nice Shot." It was a song that had me instantly hooked from the mellow opening drum and bass groove. The song made great use of the "slow, fast, slow" song structure that became prevalent all across the rock and metal spectrum of the 1990's. It was a song that became so omnipresent that I could not listen to it for a long time. It seemed that it was in about every movie trailer for years (I will always associate it with Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight) and it became played out. It also happens to be the opening track for this "best of" collection. What would be better?

Listening to the song now, for the first time in a long time, reminds me of just how cool it was and continues to be. The song really is quite magnificent. No, it is not one of the best of all time, but there is something to be said of its ability, and many of Filters hits, to exist almost outside of time where it is always accessible, yet still a little bit edgy.

filterThat is a trend I see play out across the band's catalog. The songs seem equally at home as part of a mainstream rock radio play list as they would on an edgier underground rock set. Sure, not all of the songs are "heavy" but they all have a distinct style, strong technical and emotional quotients, and are downright infectious.

Including their 1995 debut, Filter has only released four albums, including 2008's Anthems for the Damned. Still, they have more than enough material to fill a collection such as this. If you are looking for an entry point for the group, I would be hard pressed to find a better overview of the group than this. It covers the heavy and the soft sides of Richard Patrick and helps bring the talent involved into clear focus. You will always know if you are listening to a Filter track.

If there is one thing I do not like about The Very Best Things, it is that the songs are not presented in chronological order. I have always preferred it that way, as it is easier to listen to a band's progression to listen to them in order. In any case, all four of the band's studio albums are represented here, along with an EPs worth of soundtrack offerings.

Two songs from 1995's Shortbus are here. There is the previously mentioned "Hey Man, Nice Shot" as well is the aggressive track "Dose." If you were going to pick only two from the debut, these would be the ones to get. The former is arguably their most recognizable song, while the later was a strong second single for the album.

The years between their debut and sophomore releases saw their prolific soundtrack collaborations gain steam, a number are represented here. 1996 saw the release of "Jurassitol," which originally appeared on the Crow: City of Angels soundtrack, as well as "Thanks Bro" from the X-Files tribute album Songs in the Key of X. 1997 had the band the band collaborating with The Crystal Method on "(Can't You) Trip Like I Do," which hails from the Spawn soundtrack. Finally, in 1998 we got a cover of Harry Nilsson's "One" on the soundtrack to X-Files: Fight the Future. All of these songs have the distinct Filter sound and are worthy of being counted among their canon.

1999's Title of Record is the best represented album with five of the fourteen tracks coming from it. Among them is what is probably their biggest radio hit "Take a Picture," the acoustic tinged mellow rocker. The others included are the albums first single "Welcome to the Fold," as well as "I'm Not the Only One," "Skinny," and "The Best Things." This album s deceptively good. The first listen may reveal an album considerably mellower than its debut, but listen a little more and let the emotional lyrical content wash over you, or just recognize the strong songwriting exhibited throughout.

The Amalgamut was released in 2002 and has two tracks here, including the hit single "Where Do We Go from Here," which stand on its own, but reminds one of the high points of Title of Record. The other offering from this album is "The Only Way (Is the Wrong Way)."

Their most recent release, Anthems for the Damned is represented by that releases lead single "Soldiers of Misfortune." This song has that signature Filter sound, but it sounds a but less processed than songs of the past, and also strikes a political chord with its content. Still, it is actually a pretty good song and I may have to check out the rest of the album.

Filter may not be the band on the lips of the movers and shakers, but those in the know, know just how good this band is. Richard Patrick and whoever he surrounds himself with should not be underestimated, although I feel I may have done just that over the years (I wasn't even aware of the new album until well after its release). This collection helps remind me of what helped them rise to fame more than a decade ago and just why their music stands the test of time.

There are no new or exclusive tracks to entice the longtime fan to pick this up, but it is filled to the brim for the curious. New to Filter? Start here.



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