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Monday, March 06, 2017

P.O.D. -- Murdered Love


After a four-year gap, the longest the band have taken between albums to date, comes P.O.D.'s 2012 album, Murdered Love. It begins with a heavy double-whammy, "Eyez" and "Murdered Love," the band-exploring some stabby riffs and bludgeoning rhythms, vocalist Sonny Sandoval getting a chance to exercise the nuances of his screams, amid some singing and rapping. This is followed by a double-whammy of meditative, more celestial songs (just check the titles), "Higher" and "Lost in Forever." These four songs show the band can still operate at the top of their game on both sides of the hard rock spectrum...the side that features more thoughtful, uplifting music and soaring vocals(and with P.O.D., those songs still rock), and the side that just makes you want to break stuff.

It's after these songs, though, that Murdered Love falters a bit. "West Coast Rock Steady," one of the band's many "Yay, California!" songs features some of Sonny's silliest lyrics ("With all these California girls, how can you not be straight?"), and a chorus that's just a bit cheesy, though Marcos Curiel's huge guitar riff is laudable. This is followed by "Beautiful," a quiet song with very simple instrumentation that I would also classify as "cheesy." However, "Beautiful" apparently resonated with a lot of folks and was a surprise hit...shows how much I know. "Beautiful" is followed by "Babylon the Murderer," a sort of hardcore reggae song that would be a lot better if it had left out the lightning and gunshot sound effects--seriously, I don't know who at the top okayed keeping those in, but if you've released five straight albums that have made the Billboard 200 without adding movie sound effects to your songs...maybe keep not adding movie sound effects to your songs.
"On Fire" is next, a deliberate throwback to the band's earlier work that call's out its own Rage Against the Machine influence. The chorus of the song is, "Stop, drop, roll, I'm on fire." Again, I hate to nitpick, but if you have released five straight albums that have made the Billboard 200 without using a 90's safety slogan as the chorus...maybe keep not adding 90's safety slogans as the chorus.
My problem with this album, and the reason I rank it below almost all of the band's work is this sudden sense of a lack of quality control. Some of Sonny's goofy lyrics throughout Murdered Love, as well as some of its sillier sonic flourishes, would never have been included on past albums. They are not only not necessary, but bring down the album. This occurs nowhere moreso than track nine, "Bad Boy," about a "bad boy" who wants a "good girl." I think I know what they were trying to do here, but it just comes off as haphazard, immature songwriting from a band full of seasoned veterans with a war chest full of great material.
"Panic & Run" follows, a fun punk-reggae hybrid that thankfully doesn't encroach on any of the negative territory I highlighted in the previous paragraph. It leads into "I Am," the album's final track, unless you bought Murdered Love from a Christian bookstore, in which case, sorry, your CD is over. "I Am" is, on a musical level, classic P.O.D., with its huge, spacey guitar chords and heavy rhythms. It could have closed Satellite and satisfied. However, "I Am" courted much controversy due to Sandoval's use of profanity in the lyrics, though technically, those words are sonically blurred even in the non-Christian bookstore version...which is redundant, as Christian bookstores didn't even include the song (You can hear "I Am" completely unedited on Youtube).
For those who took issue with Sandoval's word choice on "I Am"...have you listened to the song? It's some of his absolute best work, as he takes on the identity of the lowest of the low, and cries out to be told about the real Jesus from those who claim to know him. It's incredibly powerful, especially coupled with the music backing it. I think "I Am" should be counted among P.O.D.'s best songs--it raises a somewhat mediocre album to solid ground, and argues for P.O.D.'s continued relevance in the world around them--who else in the Christian realm has attained the commercial position this band has, and has yet consistently reached out to the crowd that they have, the people given voice in "I Am?" Just peruse the Youtube comments on some of P.O.D.'s songs and count how many times you read either "I was completely broken," or "My life was at rock bottom," followed by, "and this music really helped me." Or I guess you could just focus on the curse word.

I saw the band in the summer of 2012, while they were touring this album, which was the first time I had seen them live in eight years (and the third time I had seen them play, overall). I took my wife and my sister, both huge P.O.D. fans who had never seen the band live, and assured them, based on my previous experience, that if we waited by the band's bus after the show, we'd be able to hangout with them. My girls were skeptical, but sure enough, the band came out and hung with us, just like they did when I saw them in their Satellite days in late 2001. I complimented Marcos' soul-infused guitar playing, and encouraged Sonny to stay the course, despite the flack he was getting. Then I snapped this shot of the ladies with the band. Great night.

2012 Razor & Tie
1. Eyez (featuring Jamey Jasta) 2:47
2. Murdered Love (featuring Sick Jacken) 3:45
3. Higher 3:22
4. Lost in Forever 4:06
5. West Coast Rock Steady (featuring Sen Dog) 3:05
6. Beautiful 3:53
7. Babylon the Murderer 4:19
8. On Fire 3:44
9. Bad Boy 3:18
10. Panic & Run 3:16
11. I Am 5:10

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