Review: We the People Need to talk about We the People
Are you ready for this? Judging by your lack of New Balance, jorts, and mall-kiosk sunglasses I’d say you’re not quite there, but let’s jump in anyway.
Back in 2012 when I heard that Mike Portnoy and Russell Allen were teaming up on a record, I was admittedly pretty intrigued despite my slow transition away from their root bands. Two giants of the genre were bound to do something at least mildly interesting, no? I won’t get into my feelings upon hearing my first taste of Adrenaline Mob (zero, I had zero feelings) but their third LP We the People recently fell into my lap and something about it called to me. Maybe it was the comically unsubtle cover art, or maybe it was my newfound love of telling waitresses I just met “I’ll have the usual”, but I needed to listen to this album.
“King of the Ring” opens up the album with 15 seconds of what I believe is an attempt to sound like switching stations on an old-timey radio, but it’s so weirdly done that I can’t figure out the purpose. Luckily that is over quickly and we move on to the first of many big stomping riffs. What’s weird about the song is that it’s four minutes of tuff guy music indistinguishable from Disturbed, but for 15 seconds before the final chorus, it flips to an actually catchy, almost power-metal section that is gone before it even gets going. Psst, Russell, your Symphony X is showing.
“Bleeding Hands” takes a turn for the country and bemoans how quickly life passes us by if we’re not paying attention. Like all good ballads, the lyrics dig really deep in the feels with lines like:
I had a good life in my hometown,
Yeah it was back in the good old days.
If you need some super generic motivation in your music and just can’t quite stomach the likes of Katy Perry, Pink, or Kelly Clarkson, maybe “What You’re Made Of” (or to fix that dangling preposition, “That of Which You are Made”, perhaps) will inspire you with the soaring:
Stand up and show me
What you’re made of
And tell ‘em what you need to say
Just stand up and shout it
Be all about it
Tell ‘em that you’re here to stay
(side note, the cheery way in which the “be all about it” line is sung literally made me chortle)
Amid the few songs with decently catchy riffs, there are total clunkers with no redeeming qualities like “Til the Head Explodes”, which is an anxiety-inducing sprint to nowhere and “Raise ‘Em Up”, where you guessed it, “‘Em” refers to your hands and we’re supposed to “wave them around like we just don’t care” (I feel like I’ve heard this expression before once or twice… or maybe on literally every pop song… I can’t remember). “Ignorance & Greed” is a metal song I guess, but even after just listening to it, I already forgot what it sounded like. Thirteen is just too many songs. There’s also a cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” because why not?
If you couldn’t tell by the album artwork, the album title, or the track names (you might want to get your eyes checked), the album is overtly political in nature. But don’t worry snowflakes, cucks, and tea-baggers, there isn’t even a whiff of a controversial statement within (they’d probably just blame it on the dog if there was). Sure, there’s anger all over the place, but like a 90-year-old man’s genitals, it stands for nothing. Corruption bad. Leaders useless. People need to fight back. Yadda yadda yadda. I understand not wanting to alienate parts of your audience, but if you’re going to make a political album, shouldn’t it at least attempt to speak some truth besides complaining about partisanship, incompetence, and other generic social issues?
Every song is comically predictable with a 4-5 minute runtime, 3ish repeats of the chorus, solos, and sing-songy refrains. On the plus side, at least Portnoy isn’t in the band anymore, so I never had to picture him making dumb faces to the camera after every fill and instead just heard some pretty solid drumming from newcomer Jordan Cannata (the previous drummer A.J. Pero sadly passed away in 2015 from a heart attack while on tour). Orlando’s guitar solos are rippingly fast (does every single song really need one though?) and Allen’s vocals can be excellent when he’s not trying to intimidate us like we’re wee children.
I can see how some people might like this. Maybe you’re sick of experimentation and just want some no-frills hard rock that isn’t overly bro-ish. Maybe cliche political outrage helps get you through the household chores that your nagging wife assigns. I’m not here to judge you. I will, however, judge the album.
2 Out ov 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
We the People is out this Friday via Century Media Records.