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Music Review: Filter – The Very Best Things (1995-2008)

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I must admit that I was surprised to hear that melodic industrial rockers, Filter, were releasing a greatest hits compilation. Not just because I'd forgotten that they'd ever existed, but also because I didn't think they had enough hits to warrant such a release. After all, if I tried really, really hard I might have remembered "Hey Man, Nice Shot" and "Take A Picture." If my life had depended on it, I might even have squeezed The Crystal Method collaboration, "(Can't You) Trip Like I Do," from the depths of my memory, but that would have been it. However, there's fourteen tracks on offer here, so maybe I'm wrong. And maybe I'm not, as it turns out that the CD is filled out with album tracks and soundtrack contributions.

Just in case your memory is as vague about Filter as was mine, they first formed in 1993 when Richard Patrick, the erstwhile touring guitarist with Nine Inch Nails, linked up with guitarist/programmer Brian Liesegang, bartering his brief quantity of fame for a record deal, resulting in their debut album, Short Bus. It was a middling success off the back of the single "Hey Man Nice Shot," which became vaguely notorious as it was believed to be glorifying the public suicide of Pennsylvania state treasurer Budd Dwyer, although Filter themselves say it is actually a reaction to the suicide of Kurt Cobain. It's actually a very good song, largely due to the guitar melody, which had previously appeared in the Stabbing Westward song "Ungod," as Stuart Zechman was playing guitar for both bands at the time. And therein lies the problem with Filter. You see, they tend to sound an awful lot like other bands playing industrial rock, but without having a defining sound of their own.

Even their biggest hit single, the atypical "Take a Picture," from their biggest selling album Title of Record, gets me humming "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel every single time. And by the time you get on to the material from The Amalgamut, there isn't a great deal going on that you'll remember five minutes after it's finished. And such may be why the American public gave up on Filter.

Even when Filter returned, following a five-year hiatus — armed with an alt-star display of musicians such as Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails), Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson), and John 5 — the sound of apathy could be heard for miles around. Which could explain their hastily assembled remix album as well as this greatest hits set. And what you get is two tracks from their debut, five from Title of Record, two from The Amalgamut, one from last year's Anthems for the Damned and four soundtrack offerings from The Crow: City of Angels, Spawn: The Album, X-Files: Fight the Future and Songs in the Key of X.

The best tunes are the ones you'll likely already know, in the shape of "Hey Man, Nice Shot", "(Can't You) Trip Like I Do" and "Take a Picture," alongside the solitary entrant from Anthems for the Damned, "Soldiers of Misfortune." However, if I can ask one thing of you, it would be to not — under any circumstances — to listen to their cover of the Harry Nilsson penned (Three Dog Night popularized) track, "One." Just don't.

There aren't any new tracks on offer, which is something that more bands should do, instead of sneaking in a new tune to compels die hard fans into purchasing albums they don't really want. So, if you remember the hits fondly, then this is a good way to get them in one handy package — especially with the soundtrack offerings — but overall it's an inessential album from an inessential band.

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About Stuart A Hamilton