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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

P.O.D. -- Testify


7/10

The strangest stretch of P.O.D.'s career reaches its zenith with Testify. Anytime a band's chief songwriter leaves, things can get weird. I think P.O.D.'s three years of work with Jason Truby on guitar clearly proves that Marcos Curiel was and again is the driving force behind "the sound" of P.O.D. While it takes all four original members to fully realize that sound, and while Truby is a fine guitarist, Truby-era P.O.D. is a decidedly less P.O.D.-sounding era of P.O.D.
And yet, who am I to say that? Plenty of kids cut their teeth on these two Truby-era albums. "Will You" and "Goodbye for Now," made it to number one on MTV's now defunct megashow, Total Request Live, That's the same amount of TRL topping songs as the first Curiel era (and all the Curiel era). Maybe I should shut up about what does and doesn't sound like P.O.D. I should judge this album I'm supposed to be reviewing here on its own merits. And after all, what was I doing when this came out anyway? Not listening to it. Despite being a huge P.O.D fan from 2000-2005, I didn't purchase Testify until 2009. I bought the P.O.D. album that came out after it before I bought it.
My life at that time is a circuital blur, to the point that when I did buy Testify, I immediately thought, wait, why haven't I bought this already? It seems I was missing some great songs on an only okay album.
Things start well enough, with "Roots in Stereo" showcasing some great song shifts, and a standout guest performance by Chassidic reggae rapper Matisyahu. For some reason, Matisyahu and Sonny's vocals sound made for each other, and the band are able to juxtapose some crunchy riffs and heavy grooves with the duos soaring, mystical vocals...it's cool. "Lights Out" follows, an attempt at a sports jam ala "Boom." While it doesn't quite pack the punch of "Boom," its start-and-stop riff and swagger-filled vocals still do the trick. "If You Could See Me Now" is one of Sonny's reflection songs, thinking about his deceased mother and the band's achievements, set to one of Truby's spacier guitar lines--not bad at all. This is where Katy Perry sticks her head out for just a moment.
A long time ago, Katy Perry was "Katy Hudson." During a transformation interim, she recorded about twenty seconds of vocals for the outro of Testify's lead single, the mournful "Goodbye for Now." The song apparently accomplishes its mission, because I've had it stuck in my head the entire time I've written this review. It also continues the bands perilous trek from diverse hard rock band to generic radio rock band, and unfortunately, that road is not averted on this album many times after this fourth track.
"Sounds Like War" is great, am excellent combination of aggression and spacey atmosphere, a reworking of The Warrors EP, Volume 2's"Ya Mama." This is followed by the bizarre "On the Grind," a song that sounds more Insane Clown Posse than P.O.D. ...um, not that I know what IC...Insane Clown Posse Sounds Like. Sonny barely even makes an appearance on "On the Grind," between the guest vocalists.
A trio of not bad, but generic and forgettable rock songs follow (and they're all sort of downers). This album has 13 tracks, which, in the case of these three songs, is too many, except the last two (tracks 12 and 13) could probably also be cut, as well. Before those last two though, there is a remake of the solid "Teachers" from The Warriors EP, Volume 2, and "Strength of My Life," one of the best songs P.O.D. have ever recorded.
"Strength of My Life," is a mystical reggae slow jam, one Marcos Curiel apparently enjoys, as he currently plays this Truby-written song live with the band.

This is followed by "Say Hello," which isn't horrible--I didn't give this album a seven because it sucks--but isn't anything special, either. Same for the closer, "Mark My Words," which sounds like it could have appeared anywhere else on Testify--it does nothing to signify that any journey has been undertaken, as Testify is more a collection of songs than an album. Granted it's a collection of mostly good songs, along with a couple great ones, but when compared to the band's previous albums, which were full of great ones, Testify doesn't measure up, whether it has a P.O.D. sound (or even an identifiable one), or not.

2006 Atlantic
1. Roots in Stereo (featuring Matisyahu) 4:42
2. Lights Out 2:47
3. If You Could See Me Now 3:07
4. Goodbye for Now 4:34 (featuring Katy Perry)
5. Sounds Like War 3:53
6. On the Grind (featuring Sick Jacken and Boo-Yaa Tribe) 4:25
7. This Time 4:41
8. Mistakes & Glories 3:38
9. Let You Down 4:15
10. Teachers 4:21
11. Strength of My Life (featuring Matisyahu) 3:37
12. Say Hello 2:32
13. Mark My Words (featuring Sick Jacken) 3:43

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