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Monday, February 20, 2017

P.O.D. -- Satellite



P.O.D.'s The Fundamental Elements of Southtown expanded my mind, and taught me to expect diversity in my heavy music. While the nu-metal bands P.O.D. Were unfairly lumped in with were content just trying to be a heavier, less cerebral version of Nirvana, P.O.D. evinced a love for Slayer, Bob Marley, and Bad Brains. Their music, full of authentic soul, could be angry, but it could also be reflective, spiritual, and, God forbid, uplifting and fun. In the two years between The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, and P.O.D.'s second major label album, Satellite, I found plenty of new music, but few heavy bands could come close to P.O.D.'s wide spectrum of sound and feeling. Admittedly, I discovered Deftones before I was recommended P.O.D., and Deftones could definitely match P.O.D. in the department of diversity, but unfortunately, those were two of the first heavy radio rock bands I was exposed to, and not many bands could measure up. I enjoyed Project 86's Drawing Black Lines, but outside of that, not many other bands who got screaming on the airwaves did very much for me. I eagerly awaited Satellite.
My roommate, a heavy music freak who also shared my love of hardcore and extreme metal (which is not P.O.D.'s genre), somehow snagged a legit copy of Satellite a week before it was released. He played it in the apartment, and I tried to ignore it, preferring to wait to jam to my own copy when the album was released...on the upcoming Tuesday, September 11th, 2001.
On September 9th, I found a Wal-Mart ad advertising Satellite for cheap and made plans to head there after class on the 11th...they also had The Police's greatest hits album on sale for $6.99, and I love The Police, so I planned to pick that up, as well.
The next day wasn't anything out of the ordinary. I went to class, went to my student worker job, went back to class, took a Mass Comm test that quickly alerted me to the fact that I did not want to major in Mass Comm anymore, went back to my apartment, ate my customary four slices of wheat bread and a large glass of water for dinner (spending $20 on music for me that fall was my grocery budget for a week). I had bad dreams that night (probably due to my ongoing malnutrition), walked into the living room to hear my roommate say, “I had bad dreams last night.”
“Yeah, me, too,” I said, plopping on the couch.
“There's a fire at one of the World Trade Center Towers,” he said, getting up to finish his morning routine. He was six years older than me, and during that year of being roommates, we didn't always gel, though I love the guy to this day (and he still loves metal!).
I turned up the volume. I think Dan Rather was on by then (we only had three channels...2, 9, 44). I stared at the fire, trying to figure out what was going on. As I squinted at the burning tower, a jetliner flew directly into the building next to it. The rest of the day did not go as planned.
Yet, still, somehow, at the end of it, I went to Wal-Mart and bought P.O.D.'s Satellite...and The Police's greatest hits (since I didn't really sleep that night, I, at some point, listened to "Invisible Sun" on about a three-hour loop...and hey, I'm about to get to The Police, too!). It seems that after skipping work to watch the news, then going to my one not canceled class (that Spanish teacher was an odd one), then calling all of my loved ones to check on them, I...well, I just wanted to go to Wal-Mart to buy the new P.O.D. What else was I going to do?
It turns out that a lot of Americans needed some P.O.D. after that morning.
Satellite is uniquely equipped to deal with that kind of event. It combines the P.O.D.'s sense of realism with their unique brand of optimism. It kicks off with a huge-sounding drum beat, the production values beefed up to maximum levels, and unrolls three positive, life-affirming songs right off the bat. "RISE - Let your spirit fly/RISE- Stand up for yourself/RISE- Hold your head up high/Our time has come/Set it off" vocalist Sonny Sandoval commands in the opening song's chorus, as the band showcase all their best attributes, a crushing main chorus riff alternating with a spacier, more mystical verse. The next song, the uplifting "Alive" finds Marcos Curiel discovering more soul and feeling in two chords than most guitarists find over the course of a full album. Fittingly, the song's much-played music video alternates between footage of a man surviving a car crash with images of surfers and skate-boarders making the most of a day, and the band jamming out. "Boom" is a party song, still played in Tiger Stadium before football games sixteen years later. The band then dig into their darker musical and emotional palette with "Youth of the Nation."

The song is relatable, and I think people were craving something like this post-9/11--something that both acknowledged the darkness, yet wasn't full of despair. And as soon as this song is done, it goes to a great spacey interlude, "Celestial," before launching into the soaring self-titled track. It's almost as if the band and producer, Howard Benson, anticipated this moment in time. The rest of the album never loses track, full of energy, passion, and moments of darkness and light. P.O.D. never drop their older influences either, going into a rapid-fire punk song that explodes into a full-blown reggae jam, with "Without Jah, Nothin." The Latin influences also loom huge, particularly in "Thinking About Forever." Truth be told, though, these influences can be felt song-to-song. It's all a part of that unique P.O.D. flavor that set them apart from their so-called peers, and which encouraged the world.
For a time after this release, P.O.D. were huge. I saw them in a packed out theater in Houston in November of 2001, and they literally lifted my spirits, as literal as the metaphysical spirit can be. Jessica, my cool cousin who introduced me to P.O.D., Adrian, my best friend/cousin/champion competitive eater, and Marie, Adrian's now ex-girlfriend and possible Lebanese princess, saw them together, and hung out on the curb behind the theater after the show. Some of the band's street team came by and gave us some swag (I still have one of the posters!), and after a while, the band themselves emerged from their bus with cases of water for fans who had stuck around. Jessica and I looked and smelled gross, drenched with sweat, as we had pushed ahead to the front of the crowd during the show. Sonny did say to "rush the stage, grab the mic, show me what you got," so we did. If I remember correctly, the energy of the crowd freaked Marie out, so Adrian had to hang in the back with her. Jessica and I, though, generally two individuals of super-model level attractiveness, looked like wet dogs (and I look emaciated from my then bread and water diet (I'm not making this up, I was flat broke and living off of wheat bread and water. I lost an incredible amount of weight and was by far the thinnest I have ever been in my life), strangely like late-career Michael Jackson...I think I hadn't quite grown into my neck yet). Here are pictures of us with the band after as proof of everything I just said, even the parentheticals.

Sonny was the most approachable platinum-selling frontman I have ever encountered. A group formed around him, and he engaged everyone, together, in deep discussion, as we talked about racism in the South, how conservative the local church culture was, and how few of us fit in. When this was over, well into the AM, when the rest of the bus was loaded, and the tour-manager was pleading with Sonny that the bus had to get on the road to make the next gig--and I am not making this up--Sonny hugged everyone. I went to shake his hand, and the dude said, "Naw, ah," pulled me in, and bear-hugged me, as well. He showed a love for everyone around him, though strangers, and I think that has helped create a dedicated fanbase, which keeps this band alive into their 25th year of existence. This real, contagious love and positivity is what helped P.O.D. sell four-plus million copies of Satellite, and it is a huge reason I can throw on the album today, and instead of remembering the hopeless feelings of towers falling, and fighter jets headed across the Persian Gulf, feel uplifted. There are bigger things in life than death.

2001 Atlantic
1. Set It Off 4:16
2. Alive 3:23
3. Boom 3:08
4. Youth of the Nation 4:19
5. Celestial 1:24
6. Satellite 3:30
7. Ridiculous (featuring Eek-a-Mouse) 4:17
8. The Messenjah 4:19
9. Guitarras de Amor 1:14
10. Anything Right (featuring Christian Lindskog) 4:17
11. Ghetto 3:37
12. Masterpiece Conspiracy 3:11
13. Without Jah, Nothin (featuring H.R.) 3:42
14. Thinking About Forever 3:46
15. Portrait 4:32


Neal said...

I remember the first time I heard "Youth of the Nation" on the radio, and it gave me the chills. Doesn't happen often listening to the radio, let me tell you.

So I was more than a bit dismayed when some took it like it was some kind of rebel song, or something (particularly egregious was an appearance on Boston Public, which had it play almost triumphantly during some school fight, if I recall correctly). It's just... not at all what the song is about.

That's pretty funny about Sonny hugging everyone. I feel awkward enough about talking to people like that, let alone getting a hug! When we went and saw FIF at some festival in South Dakota a few years ago (just after they got back together), Leanor was manning the merch table, and we couldn't bring ourselves to even talk to her and say we were so pumped they were back together, even though we were!

Nicholas said...

Man, it is always disappointing when a song that means something to you gets misappropriated. Especially when that song has a message that is positive, or at worst, ambiguous, and it is instead used to promote something negative. I wonder how Springsteen felt when his anti-war protest "Born in the USA" got high-jacked by politicians who thought the chorus was a brag. Weird.
Also, strange story I left out:
When we saw P.O.D. in 2012, they played "Youth of the Nation," and the crowd went nuts and sang along...almost everyone was in their 30's and 40's...we were not The Youth of the Nation...well, we were once...but not anymore!