It’s not often you find yourself trying to have a dialogue with an album as you’re listening to it. The songs don’t cooperate well. They don’t talk back, they don’t answer questions, and they don’t change their message. But as every track progressed on Pitchshifter’s latest release, Deviant, I kept trying to argue with the songs, saying, “No! It’s not all like that! That’s not the only way it is!”
According to Pitchshifter, the way it is is fucked. Everything in the world is fucked. In fact, we’re given the song “Everything’s Fucked” as a clue as to Pitchshifter’s general motivation, just in case we can’t figure it out. Happy, happy. Joy, joy. Oh, but I realize there’s always a time and a place for such sentiments, and we’ve all got our dark moods to air out, and our political animal’s sense of moral outrage over human loneliness and societal degradation. But at the end of the day, most of us just want to go to sleep and wake up and do it all over again the next day.
I think my biggest problem with this disc is that I’m slightly disappointed in Pitchshifter. I could overlook the one-dimensional negativism of the lyrics if the musical content were up to the level of creativity I know they’re capable of. I enjoyed quite a few of the tracks from their last effort, www.pitchshifter.com. But this time out, they seem to have settled for the heaviness of the guitar that their most recently added member, Jim Davies, brings to the foray. Sure, he was around for “the Internet album,” but it seemed like Pitchshifter was enjoying the electronica-rock moment of acts like Prodigy and letting fly with more programming and less wall of distortion. In my mind, they were actually carrying the torch of Pop Will Eat Itself on quite nicely from PWEI’s Dos Dedos Mi Amigos.
Now, Pitchshifter seems to have surfed the recent tides of popular rock and turned in an effort that sounds more like Korn, or even one of the bad Ministry discs that Al Jourgenson’s been putting out as of late, in an effort to stay relevant to what the kids spend their money on. Of course, that could just be me, but the loss of the drum-and-bass into the mix, the weakness of the samples (which helped give Pitchshifter a name and an edge to begin with) is flat and disappointing.
The album isn’t without it’s moments. “Hidden Agenda,” the track that is transformed into an iconographic, computer-generated video for the “enhanced CD” data on the disc, is a decent tune, but is so lyrically sparse that it simmers down to boring. The best track on the album, “As Seen on TV,” is the best simply for the fact that it features Jello Biafra giving one of his typical highly charged rants over the throbbing music of Pitchshifter. It’s not clear from the liner notes, but I’d be willing to bet that Biafra wrote these “lyrics” and that Pitchshifter is only responsible for the music and the “I can’t deny it’s killing me / No one loses on TV” that is the chorus. The track prior to this one, “Dead Battery,” is where Pitchshifter finally seems to get it right, at least in the lyric department. Full of complex images and anger, it at the very least doesn’t run itself into the ground on repetition.
This is not the best release by the band. That’s the most I can really say. Disappointing albums haunt every musical act, and they always will. To draw my comparrison to a close, it’s actually the same feeling I had when Pop Will Eat Itself released Dos Dedos. A great band had been lost behind the current tastes of distortion, feedback, and noise (damn you, Trent Reznor!). Bring back the beats (and samples), and Pitchshifter’s next release will probably see them back on track.