Tuesday, March 17, 2009

American Soldier Goes From Weakness to Weakness

Thank the Internet gods for leaked albums: they let me find out that much sooner when an album is a watered down disappointment.

Remember what I didn't like about "If I Were King," the single Queensryche put out on MP3.com a few weeks ago? Unfortunately, American Soldier is full of that kind of tripe: tragic stories that make you feel for the collective archetype of suffering soldier, represented by lyrics that do nothing to dig beyond the surface of the psychological underpinnings of that archetype and music as bland as a month's worth of k-rations. Believe or not, things occasionally get worse: "Home Again," which tackles the anxiety of separation between the soldier and his family, falls flat on its face by relying on a duet between Geoff Tate and a boy to support its attempts at emotional depth. The boy's voice is unmelodious, the lyrics syrupy, the moment drowned in a flood of reverb that sounds like a cheap attempt to add lustre to a lump of coal.

There's one exception to this uninspired mess: with lyrics that don't sound like the result of a pop psychology nightmare and music that does a little more than chug along, "At 30 Thousand Ft" is the kind of song Queensryche could write when they weren't just talking about artistic statements, but making them. However, hearing that one bright spot angers me even more: "At 30 Thousand Ft" shows the band still has the talent to write good music, but couldn't be bothered to do so for more than one track. They could have taken a topic with thousands of years of philosophical, medical, and social exploration and distilled it down to a thinkpiece in the mold of their classic albums. Instead, they scratched at the surface, took the handful of loose soil that came up in their hands, and cast it out for all of us to hear with pride on their faces, leaving untold treasures behind.

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