Friday, October 9, 2009

#84. 'I wanna make you move, because you're standing still'

Finger Eleven "Paralyzer"

For a band as ridiculously popular as they became, the malleability of Finger Eleven's sound is just plain weird. I mean, back when they were known as Rainbow Butt Monkeys they were doing mildly aggressive RHCP sound-alikes, then shifted to being a poor man's Our Lady Peace for the (rather good if memory serves) Tip. The problems started occurring wen they went full on aggro at the turn of the decade; they were about as competent at that as at any of their other sounds, but it didn't exactly suit them, no matter how radical a makeover their label decided to give them. They looked ridiculous and out of place, especially if you knew about their first incarnation, and given their association with Wind-Up Records - who it needs to be said are pretty infamous in areas like forcing bands to adopt more popular sounds, just read up on bands like Wrens and New Radiant Storm King for examples of that - it all felt incredibly forced in addition to all that. They didn't seem comfortable as this weird mishmash of nu metal cliches, and even if they played it competently it didn't work on any other level.

That's part of the reason that "Paralyzer" was such a happy little surprise when it came out in early 2007. After the previous two albums' nu-metal aping it was nice to see the band somewhat return to their roots. Not to say that it was a complete reversion to their pre-Greyest of Blue Skies sound, but it had definitely shed the awkward aggressiveness and come out sounding kind of like the missing link between their Rainbow Butt Monkeys era and Tip, accessibly "alternative" but with a hint of white boy funk. Sounds horrible on paper, I know, and judging by a lot of the talk I've seen online there's a large portion of people who find it just as horrible in practice, but as far as I'm concerned "Paralyzer" might be the best comeback single any modern rock act pulled out this decade.

The cynic in me wants to call this yet another opportunistic re-tooling of their sound as a means of staying relevant in a culture that could have left them behind, but the pleasure centers of my brain over rule my inner cynic on this front. On one hand it's as obvious a "Take Me Out" rip off as you could imagine, less angular but otherwise pretty much a carbon copy of it's second section, but on the other hand if you're gonna use any recent danceable rock single as a template you could do much worse than "Take Me Out." "Paralyzer" might be even more sprightly than its obvious influence, mainly thanks to that hi-hat heavy drum pattern straight off a disco record, but in spite of it's glaringly obvious debt to Franz Ferdinand and all that the radical shift in sound might imply it still kicks like a motherfucker, which is about al lyou could aske for i na slice of dance-rock.

To be honest, this is another one of those cases where I can't quite put to words exactly why I like the song as much as I do. It seems to happen most often with the most dancefloor friendly stuff in this middle section of the list that I just dig the overall feel of the song without feeling the need to pase out exactly why. In cases like "Paralyzer" it's a simple question being asked: Does this song make my rhythm-averse fat white ass want to get up and dance awkwardly regardless of who might be watching? The answer isn't an full-on yes, but it's close enough to one that it qualifies as a minor miracle.

Coming up tomorrow: Wall of guitar wins again, part 2.

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