we connect like puzzle pieces. look into my eyes, no words are needed. where have you been all my life?

few people ever gave Videodrone enough respect in the 1990s. they were signed to Elementree Records and lumped into the same corner of the music world as Limp Bizkit, Staind, Orgy...specifically Korn and the bands that they [or their progeny] popularized. Videodrone always seemed to get swept under the rug. they didn't fit in...they were still just a little too rough-edged to gain much mainstream appeal, and their music wasn't easily adaptable for such tastes.

i first heard them in the summer of 1999, when they opened for Orgy. even though Orgy had the more memorable stage presence, Videodrone had the better music. i bought the album soon after the concert, and eight and a half years later it still remains in regular rotation. i always thought it was a shame that the self-titled album was the only one they released, because it was so good.

the group did release a few other recordings under the name Cradle of Thorns, but the music under that name was so different from the music that Videodrone put out that they can hardly be considered the same band. i didn't find the old Cradle of Thorns music very interesting. it had a lot of anger and a lot of edge, and featured Ty Elam's strong voice, but the band had not yet learned how to put together a compelling melody.

that all changed with Videodrone. one member of the band left so the band renamed itself...and exhibited a previously unreached level of songwriting prowess. the only song that reminded me much of Cradle of Thorns was "L.S.D. (Lucifer's Stained Dress)." to this day, that's the one track that i still skip over. i listen to everything else. it's just as angry as the Cradle of Thorns stuff, and just as emotional...but it expresses the emotions more melodically than the older songs.

this is the only song for which they ever made a video: "Ty Jonathan Down."

that's one of my favourite tracks on the album...but to hit the highest points, you need to listen to two other songs: "Faceplant" and "Alone With 20 Bucks". "Faceplant" is a song about cheating, but from the cheater's point of view. the speaker is an asshole, a commitment-phobe...but there's enough there in the song that is so human that even someone who is not slimy can relate to the fears expressed. "Alone With 20 Bucks" is most likely about someone who is out looking for a prostitute...but focuses less on the act and more on how artificial and detached it can feel to have grown up in modern society.

that's the beauty of Videodrone, and another thing that sets it apart from Cradle of Thorns: even though the topics of the songs range from horrible to just sleazy, they portray the topics in a way that any person who isn't hiding behind rose-coloured glasses can relate to. even though the album came out near the end of the decade, their self-titled album is easily one of my top records of the nineties.

Videodrone has been dead and gone since 2000, but technically Cradle of Thorns has been revived. i say technically because it lacks any original members other than Ty Elam. musically, it lies somewhere in between the old Cradle of Thorns and Videodrone. it's a little more melodic than the old stuff, and features fewer attempts to be scary for the sake of being scary.

however, the music isn't quite as interesting. they've got four songs posted on their myspace to listen to: two songs from 1990, and two songs from the new incarnation of Cradle of Thorns. as for the new songs, i'm disappointed. both of the new ones have a melodic idea that feels like it's building somewhere, but never seems to get there.

the melody in "All Over Again" is especially engaging at first listen. after about a minute and a half it gets disappointingly repetitive. the verses are so promising; the melody tantalizingly builds, and feels like it's going somewhere interesting. however, the chorus and the bridge do not feel like the places where the song is supposed to go...on the contrary, they lack the energy of the verses, and hinder the progress of the song.

in other words...Ty has a gorgeous voice, but was obviously not the only force behind Videodrone's music. it doesn't matter if it's new Cradle of Thorns or old Cradle of Thorns...i'd rather have Videodrone any day.

No comments: