Richard Patrick has been searching for that next great moment in FILTER, one automatically held accountable to "Short Bus" and "Title of Record". Though it's a curse no artist wishes to be burdened with, Patrick has been answerable for NINE INCH NAILS, from which he and Brian Liesegang founded this band. They hit runaway success, post-"Pretty Hate Machine". Accordingly, the sports world milked and wrung out "Hey Man, Nice Shot". The Stanley Cup just doesn't seem right without FILTER following a lighted red lamp.
FILTER's continued relevance following the explosive popularity of their effervescent ballad "Take a Picture" has been Patrick's more cumbersome monkey, dancing all over his back more so even than Trent Reznor. Patrick's maudlin, political alt-punk threading through 2008's "Anthems from the Damned" was a cathartic round of bloodletting that allowed him to exorcise his long-ago substance abuses. Patrick fumed about the Iraq war on that album, which was inspired by a 23-year-old FILTER superfan and the maintainer of the band's fansite, who was killed shortly after enlisting to build his college fund. Bouncing between a heavy crush on 2010's "The Trouble With Angels" and pop-grounded boom rock on 2013's "The Sun Comes Out Tonight", Patrick returns to his roots on FILTER's seventh album, "Crazy Eyes".
Here, Patrick hardly shies from the "Short Bus"-era (even going so far as to drop a song called "Kid Blue from the Short Bus, Drunk Bunk") and the NINE INCH NAILS stigma. Patrick treats the ghost of Reznor like Skywalker did with Kenobi, learning sage advice from a master on how to better his own craft with the balls to weather pale-shade indictments. "Crazy Eyes" is all about stripped, pounding grooves, irate volume building from jittery foundations, and a return to the breathy mechanical wheezes which were fundamental to FILTER's cadence. As such, Patrick dubs this rekindled electro minimalism "new industrial."
Though it's a shame guitarist and co-writer Jonathan Radtke didn't follow Patrick onto "Crazy Eyes", let it be said Radtke got Patrick on the right track on 2013's "The Sun Comes Out Tonight". "Crazy Eyes" has a few carryover moments of Radtke's pep, but overall, this album is about Richard Patrick recycling his past in the right way. He'll stand accused as much as he'll be praised for "Crazy Eyes"'s return to industrial, but it's apparent he made his peace long before 2015, the original targeted release for the album.
On the opening jam "Mother E", Patrick utters then rasps the mantra "I've got my reasons and my reasons are sound," before pummeling the track with a singular drum clout. He then spreading tinny electronic screens and later a cello fugue in what becomes Patrick's waving of the NINE INCH NAILS white flag. "Mother E", along with "Nothing in My Hands" and "The City of Blinding Riots", is the NINE INCH NAILS song Trent Reznor did and didn't write himself. "Nothing in My Hands" rhythmically tumbles its electro pulses like the agreeable hum of a clothes drier en route to the guitar-banged choruses. Richard Patrick vocally sounds unhinged, his whispery shudders conveying insanity lead to more concrete and perky choruses where reason prevails. While lyrically on the thin side, "The City of Blinding Riots", is perhaps FILTER's danciest song, a track inviting remixing from established and aspiring DJs.
Patrick hollers overtop the metrical batter and riff strikes on "Pride Flag", building a chaotic if fixated course toward vivacious choruses and scorching guitar barbs. The free-flying "Take Me to Heaven", inspired by the passing of Patrick's father, chimes like a bass-chunked POWERMAN 5000 kick. Derivative though it may be, Richard Patrick's sharp sense for letting the keys and bass serve as primer overtop its thumps gives "Take Me to Heaven" loft.
"Head of Fire"'s curling industrial-punk bass lines serve satisfyingly jacked, beat-heavy choruses from which Richard Patrick lets his anxious id frolic. "Tremors" smacks even quicker, keeping the lead guitars submissive to a grumbling bass groove and fluid swaps between an organic and electronic tempo. Decorating "Tremors" with more strings and keys, Richard Patrick's trademark wails provide the song's true heat, even when he sounds a bit shaky in his subdued segues. "Kid Blue from the Short Bus, Drunk Bunk", likewise a hip-shaking shadow of POWERMAN 5000, keeps the energy level of this album on a high. As with the case of "The City of Blinding Riots", however, Patrick can't squeeze enough ho-hum MF'ers into the song, one of the few minor quibbles to the album.
"Welcome to the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)" at first rings like a would-be SCORPIONS ballad before turning into a cinematic dirge epic with echoing pulses, hammer drops, string weeps and gargantuan riffs. This keeping in mind Richard Patrick has been sliding his music into films such as "2012", "Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life", "Underworld" (via THE DAMNING WELL) and the 2009 remake of "The Stepfather". "Welcome to the Suck (Destiny Not Luck) " feels like it could drop anywhere between a cyberpunk flick and a transition overture within a James Bond yarn.
The giddy pound of "Your Bullets" and the grumbling, PIGFACE-touched "Under the Tongue" sound at times the truest to classic FILTER (ala "It's Gonna Kill Me" in the former case, "Hey Man, Nice Shot" in the latter). There's a sense of do-or-die to "Crazy Eyes" that may or may not be too late, given Richard Patrick's original demographic has joined its preceding generation in the adult world. Gen-X being a target to which FILTER's audience once pointed their bitten thumbs, "Crazy Eyes" renews that cynical sneer with less top meat and tons palpitating beneath its irritable skin. As good a musician as Richard Patrick is, and despite the fact his middle period of FILTER contains understated genius, "Crazy Eyes" is the album both he and his diehards have been pining for. Genius goes to the corner and sulks a while, then comes out scrapping with even more focus.