*IMPORTANT*:: This is a long, tedious, and infinitely awesome review. If you are worthless, skip it.
The Incredible and Awe-Inspiring Legacy of the FUEL of Life, Vol. 3: “Natural Selection”.
And so it continues. Three years following the lovable success of their sophomore record “Something Like Human”, FUEL triumphantly returns to the fray with their 3rd record, “Natural Selection”. This album shows the band taking their music to admirably new artistic heights in much the same way they did from “Sunburn” to “Something Like Human”, and will hopefully continue this trend for years to come. Let me break the record down for ya:
1 – `Quarter’ – If you were sleeping peacefully during the calmest night that ever there was, `Quarter’ would be the midnight train carrying 400 tons of radioactive explosives that derails, crashes, and explodes fantastically into your bedroom, sadistically ruining any chance of a good night’s sleep. Which then, of course, would destroy everything in existence. This track is menacing, bombastic, explosive, destructive, and delectably, irresistibly AWESOME. “I walk alone, I ask no quarter friend!!” vocalist Brett Scallions roars viciously through a thunderously tearing main riff, soon followed by lead guitarist Carl Bell, shredding out a wickedly awesome solo off into the mayhem as Kevin Miller mercilessly beats the living tar out of his drum kit. With bassist Jeff Abercrombie keeping things tightly in control, `Quarter’ becomes an altogether lovely and deadly song, and makes for the best opening track of Fuel’s 15 year career. 5/5
2 – `Down Inside of You’ – Though the band’s website refers to this song as “a dark rocker”, “dark” isn’t really the right word to adequately describe the mood of the song. It’s more like, “an impressively mystic riff-rocker made for those who rock”, or something, That said, the song DOES rock, just not as massively or darkly as `Quarter’ oh-so obviously does. The lead riff is a chunky and fast one, the kind of thing Tom Morello(of AUDIOSLAVE) *might* write, if his riffs weren’t so darned insane. The riff, the bass, the drums are all really great and gel smoothly together, but the track *tends* to become a little repetitive, especially if you listen to the album as much as I do. It’s still a fabulous song though, and Brett’s voice starts hitting notes that I never thought it could hit. Guess it was all `deep inside of him’.:) 4/5
3 – `Million Miles’ – With every album Fuel had managed to release, there has always been one song that stood out from the rest; one song of fairly stratospheric proportions. “Sunburn” had `Hideaway’, whose churning and refined beauty gave way to gorgeous instrumentation on a nearly epic scale. “Something Like Human”, in turn, had `Hemorrhage’, whose towering vocal delivery and superior instrumental work is second only to nothing at all(yes, I love this band THAT MUCH). For “Natural Selection”, there’s two. And one, obviously, is this one: `Million Miles’. The softly strummed opening chords make you feel like you’re swimming in something quiet, something peaceful . . . but something dark and disturbing as well. “On my way for the day I find no sorrow . . .” Brett sadly laments with quiet indignation, but then firmly shakes away his pain and need in a pounding chorus of “I, I think I might’ve loved you . . . these things I said, but you were a million miles away . . .”, sounding like the ghost of Layne Staley; with perfectly vocalized harmonics. Arguably the best song on the record, but certainly one of Fuel’s best artistic movements to date. 6/5
4 – `Falls On Me’ – The album’s first single is something of a `Hemorrhage/Bad Day’ hybrid, with fast `Hemorrhage’-type guitar-pickin’ action, and a `Bad Day’-like chorus of amazing poppie-ness. As such, it is pretty much the ONLY choice to be had for choosing a single. None of the other songs have that ready-for-radio vibe to it like this one does, but even then it’s still a fantastic song. The most ballad-like track on the album, reminding us all of songs from previous albums, a la `Sunburn’, `Shimmer’, `Innocent’, ect. The highlight is mostly Brett’s vocals, being uncharacteristically low but quite solid. 5/5
5 – `These Things’ – Even though `These Things’ seems to be the album’s most unpopular track amongst the other commenters on this site, this is the 2nd `song of fairly stratospheric proportions’ on “Natural Selection”. It starts out innocently enough, with a quiet, but mournful riff, partly reminiscent of `Innocent’ from “SLH”, with a loop of talking voices in the background. I also love the bass in the beginning, before Brett starts singing – again, *high* – with some of the best lyrics Mr. Bell has penned thus far. “I’ve got a smile to hide me, I’ve got this cross to bear . . . I’ve got this fear that dreams are all I have that’s left to me . . . these things have I” he croons as the distortion gets cranked up and the song slowly begins its restless churning. The song soon transforms from a strong anthem to a instrumental that majestically diffuses any other solo that Carl Bell has written before now. This track is perfect in all the best possible ways, and is also the longest song on any Fuel record(which, unfortunately, still isn’t that long). 6/5
6 – `Won’t Back Down’ – Oh, my dear heaven, this is such an awesome song. Like C.S. Lewis once said about J.R.R. Tolkein’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS, “It came like lightening from a clear sky.” Carl wrote this song after nearly a year of sitting around, NOT performing music. Essentially, the whole song was written in about a week for the Daredevil Soundtrack. Starting with wild, grinding effects in the background, loud guitar chords are soon exploding from nowhere, are suddenly gone, blow back on, fall off somewhere, and then the pounding song truly begins. Great instrumentation and a FREAKIN AWESOME vocal delivery give this song everything it needs to be one of the best heavier tracks that FUEL has created ever recorded. The `industrial’ taste to the song is intensified by the work of Charlie Clouser(of NIN) contributed to the track. 5/5
7 – `Running Away’ – A calm, metallic siren wails up and down as a chorus of violas and violins grow from nothingness, escalating to an interestingly dissident pinnacle. It pauses here, as if the music itself isn’t quite sure of what’s to happen next . . . and then enters Carl Bell with a low, rhythmically choppy riff that inches it’s way softly along, almost against it’s will. By this time, the mood is so firmly set it seem nearly impossible for any more emotion to creep in anywhere. At least, until Brett comes in. Of all the previous songs that I have swept praise upon, it is this one, I believe, that touches me the most. The lyrics are both loving and haunting, and Scallions voice is so pure with feeling that I sometimes wonder how some folks get through the day without this band. Not as *good* as tracks 3 and 5, but this is my favorite song on the record nonetheless. 5/5
8 – `Most of All’ – I find it rather amusing that, while this album has two songs of `fairly stratospheric proportions’, it also has two of the worst songs Fuel has ever written. And, un-coincidentally , this song is one of them. Apparently, and not without a certain amount of understanding, the band decided to experiment with the pop/punk sound that bands like GOOD CHARLOTTE have made a career out of. For most of those who are commenting on this album, this would seem like a GOOD thing, and I suppose if you are a fan of bands like that then this would make some amount of sense. But while I applaud Fuel’s desire and daring to attempt a song like this, it still really sucks, and could’ve easily been replaced with a song a million times better(specifically `On the Road Again’, which can be found on the “Falls On Me” import single). On a positive note, Brett’s voice frikin rocks! 1.5/5
9 – `Getting Thru?’ – If you took the main riff from P.O.D.’s most successful track `Alive’, gave it a bit more personality, added vocals that could carry the same emotion and identity, and generally make a fantastic, hard-rockin song that made `Alive’ look like the pansy child of Fred Durst, it would be `Getting Thru?’. Much like `Prove’, from `SLH’, the blistering main riff booms along with a high-pitched riff-counterpart, adding greatly to the atmosphere and identity of the song. Yet, while `Prove’ was the most blatantly sinister track of Fuel’s career(barring, of course, `Mary Pretends’), `Getting Thru?’ is almost lighthearted, and I’d swear it’s the poppiest, but HEAVIEST song of it’s kind. 4.5/5
10 – `Die Like This’ – I have heard arguments that shun Fuel for being “a generic crap-fest”. Though this is not at all my personal view of the band, I must admit that this particular song is one of the most disgustingly generic steaming piles of manure that I have ever personally heard. Though, again, as with the case of `Most of All’, most folks seem to love this song, even while nearly everything about it is undesirably ridiculous. The intro was stripped off of `Hemorrhage’, the music in the verses sounds exactly the same as something like a TRILLION other songs, the lyrics are outrageously weak at best, and so on. Carl supposedly wrote about 40 songs to choose from for this album, and I’d bet my Wal-Mart shoes that half of them were ten times better than this. 1/5
11 – `Luck’ – The final two tracks on the album reminds me most of what we found and felt on Fuel’s grand debut, “Sunburn”. This song nearly hops along, spending a vocal melody and musical talents that make it clear the band LOVES doing what they do. One of only two songs by vocalist Brett Scallions that have ever made it to record(along with `Knives’ from “SLH”), `Luck’ is the singer’s best song thus far. The lyrics are really fun to sing to and the vocal melody is purely awesome. The song’s bouncy melody keeps the track sonically interesting, and a truly spectacular solo helps to make it obvious that what Brett has made here, if not an emotional masterpiece, proudly displays talent, fun, and impeccable musicality. Here’s hoping we’ll hear more of Brett’s writing on whatever’s to come next! 4.5/5
12 – `Days With You’ – In the past, Fuel has ended their albums on a quietly desperate note. `Hideaway’ and `Slow’ were both weary pleas for salvation, with music crafted to match perfectly the messages within. `Days With You’, however, is something entirely different. The song, musically, is really more like 3 songs which have been cut apart, adjusted, and dispersed throughout a four-minute span in such a way that would melt all three separates into one whole. Starting quietly, shifting to pure aggression, then maintaining both in a simply perfect solo than makes me love this band even more. The song ends up conveying a sort of angered resolve, and really seems to me the type of thing PEARL JAM would do(or would HAVE done in the “Vs.” days). A fabulous end to a fabulous album. Kudos to Fuel, who simply rule. 5/5
I am almost perfectly sure nothing this long has ever been posted on this site. Why do I labor so long, so diligently, so IDIOTICALLY, on something that hardly anyone will notice or remember? Because Fuel is NOT a post-grunge carbon-copy of NIRVANA. The music that Fuel writes, despite my best efforts, is indescribable. As an incredibly die-hard fan, their songs inspire such emotion and beauty and honesty that I can hardly explain my true feelings for them. They mean a whole lot to me. Each song has it’s own identity, it’s own mood, it’s own life. Too many people dismiss them, and while Fuel doesn’t care one way or another, they deserve to be recognized for the great music they write. For GREAT, it truly is.
Thanx for reading. Now buy the freaking album.