System Of A Down – Steal This Album!
The year was 1998 and the Album was self titled – System Of A Down. This was the dawn of a new style within rock. System Of A Down, comprised of Serj Tankian doing vocals, Shavo Odadjian on bass, Daron Malakian on guitar, and John Dalmayan on drums, is indeed a musical wonder. Their broad mix of influences and wacky yet melodic style can bring even the deepest and oddest feelings to your eardrums. A single song will begin slow and thoughtful and before you realize it will turn hard and heavy. The next song will begin hard and melodic and twist your eardrums on a musical roller coaster with a sudden change into a wacky guitar solo and a hint of hypnotic chimes. These are just a couple of insights into the unique and original sound that is System Of A Down. This review will consists of a breakdown and description for each song off of the latest System Of A Down album titled “Steal This Album.”
1. Chic ‘N’ Stu: This song is a classic example of the wacky and fun side of System Of A Down. The beginning of the song starts as what I can best describe as a scene out of a movie. If you were watching a comedy movie and there was a point in the movie in which a young kid was going to do something mischievous, this is the music you would hear while the kid was planning and scheming and then carrying out the idea. This funky beat lasts all of ten seconds before a nice heavy hitting beat steamrolls it’s way in. The entire songs flip-flops between a killer heavy beat and a funky sound all backed by very animated cartoonish sounding vocals describing the ingredients of a pizza pie and the results of advertising. To be perfectly honest, I can only shoot in the dark as to the meaning of this song. What I get from it is a painted picture in my mind of the 4 band members sitting in a dimly lit room gathered around a knee high round table feasting on a pizza pie consisting of pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, and chives. They’re all contemplating and discussing advertising strategy and how advertising controls the public to a certain extent, keeping them running around on a daily basis in search of things they “need”. I’m sure that I am way off base, but it is fun to fathom the conception of this song.
2. Innervision: This is simply a great song. When I hear the lyrics I feel as though they’re saying that if we look inside our selves and find that driving force that we can do anything we put our minds to. I also feel that the lyrics mean that finding whom you are as a person is a crucial step in life. I get a heavy sense that self-meditation inspired this song. Quickly touching on the sound of the song, it has a steady yet pleasurable style.
3. Bubbles: If I were being honest I would say that I haven’t the slightest clue what this song means. It’s a damn catchy beat and keeps my head bobbing, but the lyrics are a mystery to me. I will take a wild guess though. By hearing “bubble jungle” I think of the billions of people roaming this earth on a daily basis wrapped up in their own little world believing only what they want to believe and only what they see fit. These people believe what they see and nothing more. “We’re left with no arms, right in the power struggle.” This lyric sounds like a government feeding bullshit to its people and giving them no choice or preference other than what that government feeds (I hate politics in music, we’ll get to that in a minute!). Remember that this is just my interpretation of the song and it is not the view of the band. Frankly, I’m probably way off base… Again.
4. Boom!: Remember when I said I hate politics in songs? This is the song I was thinking of. While it carries a badass beat I can stomp my feet to, it is lined with politics. I fucking hate this. The song speaks of the spending of billions of dollars on bombs for war while thousands of hungry children die every hour from starvation. While I agree that spending money to help humanity is a great thing, war, UNFORTUNATELY, is sometimes a necessary sin. Yes, thousands of children are dying from starvation, but how many do you think have died from the likes of Saddam? There are most certainly two sides to every story, and every side of politics has its spin-doctors, but preaching on political issues through music just isn’t my cup of tea. I think music should be about pleasure not problems. Regardless, the song has a wonderful sound to it.
5. Nüguns: This song does not appeal to me at all. The lyrics, the sound, the entire song lacks that great substance SoaD almost always has. I feel they fell short on this song both style wise and lyrically. The lyrics have no clear-cut meaning, which usually does not bother me unless the sound of the song is no more entertaining. This is when I become bored with it entirely. I actually enjoy trying to decipher the meanings of songs, but give me a great melody to keep me busy!
6. A.D.D: Undoubtedly one of the best sounding tracks off of the album. It carries a great melodic sound with a tough beat and a touch of funkiness here and there to top it off. Alas, it is yet another politically driven song. Oh, the irritation. Such a wonderful backdrop of noise being cluttered with political nonsense. Give it up! If I wanted to hear politics I’d turn on CNN, Fox News, The BBC, C-SPAN, you fucking name it… When I put a CD into my CD player I want to hear beautiful noise, which SoaD most certainly delivers, topped with interesting and pleasurable lyrics. I do admit that SoaD is not always about politics, which is definitely a great thing for myself. If they dropped the politics completely, they would be Gods to me. As of now, they are Demi Gods (Which is still a compliment!). More crazy lyrics in, politics out!
7. Mr. Jack: This song is almost depressing at first. The song begins slow and dark. What I get from this song is the description of some pathetic criminal and the leading up to his meeting with the cops. The lyrics say “Your prospect of living gone” and “You must now face authority.” This, to me, claims that the criminal has no chance of escape and is doomed to life in prison or the death penalty. Perhaps even losing his life during the confrontation with police. The message of this song is certainly intriguing and the flow of the beat is smooth yet dark. It does have higher moments when the song becomes harder, but comes back down to a depressing note… At least until the end, which ends on a screaming note from Serj and a heavy hitting beat from the remaining 3 members. Good song indeed.
8. I-E-A-I-A-I-O: This is definitely one of the oddest tracks from the album. The first time I heard it all I could think was “What the fuck?” This, of course, was meant in a good way. I love the song and the lyrics are fucking wacky! The song includes the hilarious lyric “Peter’s pecker picked another pickle bearing pussy pepper” as well as mentions of Lois Lane, Jimmy Carter, a cop that just got shot but is now recovered, and meeting at Dale Jr’s place. Mid-way through the song Daron breaks out into a Knight Rider esque jam on the guitar. The entire song is amusing and very upbeat.
9. 36: A short 46-second ensemble. This is another very odd song. I love these odd songs SoaD comes up with as if out of the blue. The song touches strongly on the question: “Will you live at your own pace?” The end of the song leaves us with Serj growling out the last few words. I’ve always liked the growls done by SoaD. They incorporate them well within their songs but do not overuse them.
10. Pictures: This song is fucking great. It begins on a quick beat and further advances into what sounds like a circus song! The mix of melody and changes in style through out this single song shows the brilliance that is SoaD. Nearing the end of the song a nice hard melodic beat stomps its way through your ears and into your head. Fading back into a circus style sound we hear the remainder of Serj’s “I’ve got pictures on my mind!” Great song all around.
11. Highway Song: This is my favorite song off of the album both lyrically and instrumentally. From the end of the previous song, Pictures, it rolls into this song seamlessly. If you weren’t watching the track # on your CD player you wouldn’t even know the song changed. It begins with a clean steady hard thumping beat and continues to twist your ears, pleasurably, on a melodic roller coaster that greatly emphasizes what I see best in SoaD: Great versatility, strong beats, melodic tunes, and magnificent song structure. Also great lyrics, when they aren’t politically driven of course. The song is full of melody, both in Serj’s voice and instrumentally. The song ends on a heavy note and that kicks ass. I love it when a song ends tough. In every facet, I see this as a near perfect song. I mark this as my favorite track by wearing a groove in that particular spot on the CD!
12. Fuck The System: This is another one of those funky songs. Serj uses animated voices while singing and the instruments back that with the same animated feel. More talk about war though. It’s what I hear about on a daily basis everywhere I go. I most certainly don’t want to hear it in the music I enjoy so much. I will bitch about this until I’m blue in the face.
13. Ego Brain: This song is boring. It’s too ordinary, a far cry from the usual SoaD I’m used to. It’s depressing and simply lacks the magic I see in almost every other song created by this band. I won’t be hearing this song anymore, if I can help it.
14. Thetawaves: I like the way this song can keep my feet moving as I sit here in this chair. I enjoy songs that make me move in my seat. It’s a neat sounding song but I still have this let down from the previous song that is, perhaps, lingering over me still and clouding my judgment for this song. I enjoy the song, but it’s not one that I’m particularly enchanted by. It has a clean beat, go composure, and Serj’s lyrical journey is, as always, just that: a journey. On a scale of 1 – 10 this song would get a 5. Not up to par by any means, but not garbage either.
15. Roulette: This is a song of great emotion. It’s a slow and sad sounding song and it’s the kind that makes you contemplate heavily on times passed. The entire song is back dropped with what sounds like a cello and this is combined with an acoustic guitar. No drums. The sound produces a sweet and sour emotional effect. It brings out deep and sad emotions all while giving you that pleasure of a finely composed and incredible sound to your ears. I call these types of songs “mind songs.” It makes me think a lot on my life and the things that matter most to me. A great composition, but I’m glad they didn’t end the album on this note! Too sad for that.
16. Streamline: This song kicks ass. That chorus sounds off a catchy “I wasn’t there for you!” that keeps popping up in my head every now and then. About 25 seconds into the song I hear a repeated guitar note that reminds me of The Cranberries – Dreams. It’s a neat guitar note and suits the song well. The song then speeds up to a heavier quicker sound and back into a slow rendition of that familiar guitar note. Nearing the end of the song a nice guitar solo emits and then twirls back into the chorus on a heavier note. Serj ends the song most appropriately with two resounding goodbye’s as this is the last track from the album. I’m very pleased with the ending to this album and I’m glad they didn’t leave me with a song I disliked.
Steal This Album is a work of art. It combines beautiful melody with rousing lyrics and that unique vibe that only System of a Down can put together. From the hypnotic chimes, to the mysterious and funky beats, topped off with Serj’s magnificent vocals, this is yet another album that peaks my interest beyond belief. I can play this album for hours upon hours and still not have my fill. It began quick and heavy, faded towards the end with some slower songs, but when all was said and done, the very last song was the nail in the coffin. It ended on a badass upbeat song and for that I am grateful. My only beef still remains that I hate politics in music, regardless of the views. Looking back on Toxicity and their Self Titled album, Steal This Album is another one for the book of greatness. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next, as I know for sure that I will not be disappointed.
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