A Music Snob’s Look at System of a Down

With the complete fuckaround which is Australian Politics at the moment, let’s get political! Let’s find some machines to rage against and some systems in which to… um. down.

Look, I’m talking about System of a Down, alright? Do I have to spell out everything? Fuck…

THE ARTIST

If by chance, you were an angry teen in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, you probably listened to System of a Down… Or Papa Roach, but Papa Roach are shit. So let’s ignore them.

SOAD brought out Toxicity in 2001, which simply, was the shit. Yes, yes, their other albums are enjoyable, but Toxicity will be their best effort for me. Even if it’s at times ridiculous. They were basically “that other political band your leftie metalhead mate listened to when he wasn’t listening to Rage Against the Machine”, and it shows.

Oh, and they were at one point fronted by Weird Al Yankovic.

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The likeness will never not be uncanny to me

THE MUSIC

Political, angry, but not afraid to be completely and utterly ridiculous while still somehow being political or at least commentating on society. Chic n’ Stu is a perfect example of this, as is Prison Song.

They get a little too “angry teen music” for me at times. I find Bounce! unlistenable, Chop Suey! is pretty much the anthem of every cranky little shit who ever thought a chain attached to a wallet was hardcore as fuck.

The shining star of SOAD, however, is the vocal work of Serj Tankian. He can be singing these wonderful melodies one minute, and then being a cranky little shit the next. Aided by Daron Malakian on guitar and backup vox. Technically, they’re good. Don’t always do it for me, but good.

SONG-BY-SONG

Toxicity

I can’t mention Toxicity without vomiting mountains of praise for it. It’s fucking great. Next song

B.Y.O.B.

The first song we heard when Weird Al led the band for a while there. It’s great up until the last few moment. the ending is way too jarring for me. Also I’m wondering if Daron Malakian can sing without screeching. that’d be great.

Chop Suey!

i-dont-always-wake-up-but-when-i-do

Again, the anthem of angsty teens everywhere. You can’t help but hate your parents and slam doors once you hear about angels dying. I… really don’t like it all that much. Overplayed, maybe?

Aerials

If I had to pick a favourite SOAD track it… Well, it’d be Toxicity, but this comes fucking close. This was actually the first song of theirs I heard, it has staying power but I’ve overplayed it to fuck.

Sugar

Okay, not gonna lie. It’s hard not to like this song. If you want an introductory to SOAD, this is it. Go. Do the thing.

Spiders

This kinda feels like “Aerials” before “Aerials” was “Aerials”. I like me some chilled-out SOAD. Like, you could have it on in the background as “doing shit” music, but it still packs enough punch to get into if the moment calls.

THE MUSIC VIDEOS

Holy shit. Where do I begin?

They are the epitome of tryhard 90’s/00’s ‘alternative’ music. Fred Durst ain’t got nothing on this. That’s not neccesarily a bad thing, but it’s totally a snapshot of a moment in time where things were simpler, producers didn’t have to be shouted out on every damn track they work on, and it was a requirement for record label contracts for bands to use an entirely white room for at least one music video. Seriously, what’s with that? Even The Matrix used it as their fucking weapons locker.

“Sorry about the noise. System of a Down and Blink-182 are using the rooms next door”

The exceptions seem to be “Question!” and “Spiders”, which really wouldn’t look out of place in a Tool/A Perfect Circle setting.

IN SUMMARY

Honestly? I could have written an entire entry on how good “Toxicity” is and leave it at that. They hold up, not my favourite band by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re enjoyable. Plus you can use ’em to pick out all the old farts like yourself at parties. They’ll be the ones involuntarily moshing or singing along to “Chop Suey!”, because damnit, that was their childhood.

And maybe that’s the thing, maybe I have a soft spot for SOAD because I grew up through friends, lovers, family listening to this shit. Not that I don’t like them in their own right, but, good reminder of happier times, y’know?

I’ve come to appreciate them a hell of a lot more these days, because I was the weird kid to listened to 80’s hair metal in highschool, who had a copy of KoRn’s “Follow the Leader” strategically stashed for the street cred. So a lot of SOAD’s work I’m hearing with fresh ears, and it’s been a hell of a ride.

 

Till next time…

 

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