Eventually you’ll run into that one frightening statistic: in any given music year, 90% of the CDs released will not turn a profit. Some might think “Oh, do they mean those groups who have only one Now! That’s What I Call Music compilation?” If it were only that easy. Hundreds upon hundreds of new bands pop up each year, but most people will probably hear of only just a few of them. There is good reason why most don’t succeed: they just don’t do anything. They are either imitating their idols to the point of parody or writing songs so generic that you forget them the moment you heard them. The latter is certainly true for the Black Furies.
This San Francisco rock act isn’t a bad band. They aren’t lacking six-string proficiency by any means: one would get the impression that this would be a great band to see live while downing beers by the pitcher-full (calling their style “beer-rock” would be surprisingly apt). But once you’re drunk off your ass and the Furies’ leather-jacket roadies are packing up the amps, you’ll realize that you don’t even remember who just played and won’t be able to recall a single song.
As blunt as it may be, you don’t even have to listen to Saturday Night Death Trip to know what it sounds like—you’ve heard every single guitar part here before. The songs all just blur together after awhile: it begins with a riff that sounds less catchy than it should be (“Hardwired” is a great example of this) and then shoots off into a generic chorus and will have some guitar soloing popping up at various points (and we “get it”—you can play a guitar solo—you don’t have to remind us of that on every single track). You might be caught up in the occasional inebriated sing-along, but even then it’s hard to keep that up when every song on the album is pleading for your call-and-response to the chorus. It’s hard to know what to feel when a chorus consists of the words “Can you feel it?” repeated multiple times in a row. The sheer lack of innovation in the pseudo-title track “Saturday Night Death Trip” should tell you all you need to know: “Death Trip Saturday Night / Money in my pocket and I feel alright / I ain’t gonna make it till the morning light / I’m on a Death Trip Saturday Night”.
Yet for such a product of overwhelming generalities, one might be compelled to ask where the blame lies. The answer: all over the place. First, it should be noted that the production on this album, in a word, sucks. Two of the strongest elements are hushed down to the point of barely there, much like taming a lion until it behaves like a house cat. Most any rock band wouldn’t exist if not for the presence of booming, powerful, commanding drums—here they’re just an afterthought. Same goes for the vocals: there’s no ferocity. You can hear the lyrics just get swaggered around in the mouth but never spat out. At times, the Furies’ break out into vocal harmonies—would be nice if we could actually hear them. To top it all off: there are no ballads. This isn’t to say that every single rock album ever released is required to include a ballad, but it certainly would be a welcome change of pace given the Furies’ tendency to play at full-throttle all the time (hell, even the occasional mid-tempo song would be a nice break).
What’s most frustrating about Death Trip Saturday Night is that it’s actually tolerable in doses. If you had this on your iPod Shuffle and “Bitter Pill” popped up, it would be a pleasant (though not necessarily great) listening experience. As easy as it is to flat-out pan this band altogether, you get the feeling that they just might be capable of something more. As for when (or even if) we find this out, you can only hope for the best as you stagger to a taxi, worried more about how much your tab is than where you can buy an album by the Black Furies.