Us and Them – Shinedown
CD Review by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter

1/2006


         



Track listing
1.
The Dream
2.
Heroes
3.
Save Me
4.
I Dare You
5.
Yer Majesty
6.
Beyond The Sun
7.
Trade Yourself In
8.
Lady So Divine
9.
Shed Some Light
10.
Begin Again
11.
Atmosphere
12.
Fake
13.
Some Day

Label: Atlantic / Wea
Release Date:
October 4, 2005

OVERALL RATING: 8

 

   

As one of the newcomers on the hard rock scene, Shinedown found some success with help from a couple of hit singles from their promising debut lp, "Leave A Whisper." On later pressings of the disc, you can find a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man" that is just pristine. So, as this sophomore disc hit the racks, I was anxious to hear exactly what this band had. Were they going to make the proper adjustments and make a record better than the promising debut? Or would they be the type that recorded every good song they knew on their first record and now are left with nothing for the follow-up? Was "Fly From The Inside" and "Burning Bright" all that this band had in them? I'm here to tell you that this record, "Us And Them," is better than the first record, and it is one of the best releases of the year.

The band shows more of a comfortable groove on this disc. Backed by singer Brent Smith's armor piercing pipes, these tunes jump off the disc and swirl through your head with a fervor rarely achieved by a band that's only on their second offering. Delicate poetry being read by an adolescent girl to kick off the album is a priceless idea that sets you up for the blast that follows. "Heroes" is one of the best songs of the year. With compelling lyrics ("All my heroes have now become ghosts / Sold their sorrow to the ones who paid the most / All my heroes are dead and gone / But they're inside of me, they still live on"), and a tight, raucous rhythm, this is a sensational way to start a record. To continue the feverish pace, the band fires off their hit single "Save Me." Did I say "Heroes" was one of the best songs of the year? Well, grab the chalk and draw another line for Shinedown in the best songs of the year column. "Save Me" is really something special. If I say that the light pop verses and the powerful refrain of the next song, "I Dare You," qualified for yet another best song of the year honor you would probably not believe me and stop reading, so I won't go there. Let's just say that it's a song that stands toe-to-toe with the best of them. This set goes on and on with energetic, emotional, dynamic songs. You have the in-your-face grit of "Yer Majesty" and "Atmosphere," the sensitive and moving balladry of "Beyond The Sun" and "Shed Some Light," and the radio rock simplicity of "Some Day." A truly deadly example of the band's groove comes by way of a song called "Atmosphere, which has the funky jumpiness of your hottest Audioslave track. Another treat on the album comes from a track called "Fake." This is a song that combines all of the strongest elements of the band; the nice tight groove (very reminiscent of The Toadies "Possum Kingdom"), the chorus with the big hook, and a soaring vocal performance. Now that I mention it, let's talk about this guy. Brent Smith is one of the best singers of the genre. This guy can do it all. If you haven't heard the cover of "Simple Man," my heart bleeds for you. Smith is amazing on that track, and he continues his excellence throughout this release. He's got the strength, he's got nice range, and best of all he has passion trapped inside each and every note he blurts out. He's rare. He's great.

No mention of anything negative, right? Is there anything I don't like? Is this the perfect rock record? Let me say first that this is close to perfection. I, personally, can live without a couple of these songs, but that is not to say that they aren't solid tracks. The Bon Jovi-like swaying of "Some Day" is not one of the shining points of the record for me, and the over-the-top frenetic sound of "Yer Majesty" might place that song in a "typical" file, where it might be joined by "Lady So Divine." But, the greater part of this record is a lesson in superb songwriting and solid musicianship.

Shinedown has definitely proven that they were not a fluke. They not only came back with a record as good as their debut, but they came back even stronger, and that's always a good thing.

 
       


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