RECORD REVIEW | "SHORT BUS" BY FILTER
photo & text by nacrowe
much as NINE INCH NAILS is for all intents and purposes a solo project spearheaded by TRENT REZNOR, FILTER likewise is such for RICHARD PATRICK (although initially cofounder BRIAN LIESEGANG had a more prominent role). in fact, before starting his band PATRICK served as a touring guitarist with NINE INCH NAILS. his departure was in part financial, as he clarifies in the recent documentary HIRED GUN (DRAMA KILLS, 2017) the extent to which being a touring musician left him out of songwriting or publishing royalties. with encouragement from REZNOR he formed FILTER.
i say all this because it is very difficult to listen to the INDUSTRIAL-influenced METAL / ALTERNATIVE ROCK of the FILTER's debut album SHORT BUS (REPRISE, 1995) and not hear echoes of his former band. the EXTREME dynamics at play with the production and song construction showcases a formula that oscillated between MINIMAL, MOODY, drum-programmed verses and massive, DISSONANT choruses with PATRICK's BLOOD-CURDLING screams taking center stage. on songs like "DOSE," "UNDER" and especially "HEY MAN, NICE SHOT" PATRICK's voice is very much the main attraction. he seemingly has this intriguing ability when singing to project multiple notes in a similar manner to other noteworthy singers like CHESTER BENNINGTON and AXL ROSE. tonally its very unique and is a signature of FILTER's sound both on their debut and subsequent releases (which cleverly focus on songwriting that promotes his unique range sans the CHAOTIC dissonance of their debut).
the center-piece of the album is the opener "HEY MAN, NICE SHOT" which had the unfortunate happenstance of having been written before but being released after KURT COBAIN's shocking suicide by firearm. the song was inspired by the notorious UNDERGROUND footage of the R BUDD DWYER suicide on live television. DWYER being a PENNSYLVANIA politician who was convicted on corruption charges and killed himself by hand gun at a public press conference. the narrator of the song almost identifies with the subject for his decision, celebrating the act as a form of rebellion and act of resurrecting one's sense of personal IDENTITY and INDEPENDENCE. its a very dark song, but its brutal taboo subject mattered coupled with its EXTREME dynamics made it an ALTERNATIVE ROCK radio hit in the mid 1990s. i distinctly remember hearing the song on 106.7FM KROQ LOS ANGELES when i was in elementary school. at the time i didnt make the connection to COBAIN although i was still quite young at the time.
in retrospect whats compelling about SHORT BUS is how its formula was largely abandoned on subsequent releases that had little to no INDUSTRIAL flourishes and more LUSH and ORCHESTRATED arrangements that seemed focuses on elevating PATRICK's voice rather than burying it in DISSONANT noise. personally, i feel strongly that FILTER songs from this period have more TENSION and AGGRESSION partly due to the fact that his voice is fighting for prominence in the mix. the songwriting definitely improved on TITLE OF RECORD (REPRISE, 1999) and THE AMALGAMUT (REPRISE, 1999), as well as the much later THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS (NUCLEAR BLAST, 2010), but there is something about the PRIMAL screaming on SHORT BUS that is much more MEMORABLE than those later records. they all seem to be playing by the ALTERNATIVE ROCK playbook while SHORT BUS felt like an intriguing side-street from the main thoroughfare that was NINE INCH NAILS' PRETTY HATE MACHINE (TVT, 1989) and THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL (NOTHING, 1994) from that period.
at lest that is how i remember it. SHORT BUS is an INCREDIBLE record and well worth checking out.