Release DetailsLABEL Atlantic Records
RELEASED ON 10/4/2005
Us And Them
posted on 6/2006 By:
A couple weeks back after the queue received it’s weekly-or-so fluffing, while going through the releases, I was taken aback slightly seeing that Shinedown’s successful Us And Them was nestled among the heavies. Maybe it was there for a while and a blonde moment caused my lack of observation, but it was surprising to see it scheduled for critical evaluation here. As most of you probably already know, Shinedown ain’t metal, which is fine with me. Perhaps shift your brain slightly to the side of your choice along with me here, and maybe tap back into that part of you that remembers all which blasts isn’t gold… or something. You might dig this.
What Goes Right: Tons. Please understand I know next to nothing about this band, other than they’re already very popular, and recently landed a sweet support gig on the upcoming Godsmack & Rob Zombie tour. Other than that, no clue. I half expected some horrible Chevelle / Breaking Benjamin / Crossfade situation to come stumbling awkwardly out of the speakers, but there’s nothing clumsy at all about Us And Them. I would call this authentic unless someone could prove otherwise. Smooth underlying southern grooves with a cascading vocal delivery, encompassing an entirely modern sound without sounding like a corporate assembly are the order of the day, capped off by some of the best rock songwriting I’ve heard in eons.
The power of the riff is downplayed in more mainstream environments, and Shinedown is not a riff-based band even though their compositions are still somewhat dependant on guitar hooks to get the point across. It’s the creative, impressive vocal melodies supplied by Brent Smith that carries this album to such heights. Swagger, soul, range and ability, he’s got it down flawlessly. Goddamn, this dude can lay down the law on the microphone, whether he’s singing softly yet with masculine grit, or just wailing for all he’s worth, the vocals are badass on par with Chris Cornell on his best day.
The music itself is a quirky melding of post-grunge and southern blues, and acts as support more than anything, with some mighty catchy, thoughtful harmonies and acoustics smeared about. The songs are crafted well, and don’t really have a sound modeled for radio even if they get played on the radio. While there isn’t any innovative structure to the tunes, they’re all solidly or excellently arranged, and avoid sounding too 'Los Angeles'. It’s a little King’s X, a little Black Label Society, and a little Soundgarden without ripping off any of them. Nice. “Beyond The Sun” in particular is sublime, and the chorus to “Lady So Divine” is fantastic.
What Goes Wrong: "The Dream" is totally unnecessary as an intro, and “I Dare You” slips up a bit and tumbles into primetime drama soundtrack territory. It’s kind of funny, standing as the only song on the album that sounds uninspired and below par compared to the heart and vibrancy of the rest of the material. At the same time "Trade Yourself In” is a little too busy, and the only example of an overworked tune on the disc. A bit too Nickelback for my taste in the vocal delivery, but still better than anything on any Nickelback album I’ve heard. The production is also on the thin side, a broadening of the bass would have helped things immensely to add some desired bottom end, and much like this review, the 13 song tracklisting could have been edited down somewhat.
The Verdict: It’s damn good rock music, man. Us And Them isn’t a perfect album, but it does the job, and does it well. Get used to hearing about this band, because for once the masses got it right. This is an excellent rock album that deserves a fair shake if you’re any kind of fan of the style. Highly recommended, it's that simple. Check it out.
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