Child of the Same God
October 14th 2008
I’ve developed a bit of a complex from listening to Bill Madden’s soon to be released record Child of the Same God 100 times. You see I am a particularly political guy. It is all I really think about other than music and sex, but this album wears all of Bill’s organs on its sleeve. It is a unapologetic populist anti-war diatribe that seeks company in the hallowed halls of history with Neil Young, Eddie Vedder, and Steve Earl; not that he reminds me of any of these folks, other than his explicit use of political tropes. I totally respect that project…I really, really do. For what ever criticisms I may levy now, know that Bill Madden has talent and his protests are on the right side of history. He has the production sensibilities of Linda Perry post 4 Non Blondes. I mean that in the best way. The elements from which each musician draws are nearly identical. The song Shut It Off is a perfect example of this affinity. Madden’s voice is drenched in tremolo effect as if water were spilling from his mouth as he sings. However, for all his pop rock appeal, the rebelistic lyrics reveal a somewhat trite or at best contrived persona that seeks to embody the symbol of activism and revolution rather than simply exist as an instrument of experimentation and provocation.
“Throughout history, we’ve seen his ilk. Intoxicated by the power he wields in his grandiose imperial dream. The end always justifies the means.”
Madden’s instrumentation is solid, blending brushed snares, trumpet, and jazzed piano melody. His style shuttles between mock reggae to that nebulous genre that formulated when record execs came to terms with that hot new Seattle rock some called “grunge” in the mid 90’s. You know…Bush and Tonic…idol contestants with the depth of a candy dish. As a matter of taste, no amount of social awareness and melodic platitude will erase the laughter I felt somewhere inside when a friend turned to me as I listened to the record and said, “This music makes me feel like crashing a car into my face.” He went on to compliment Madden’s voice by exclaiming, “He sounds like Nancy Kerrigan getting fucked by a goat.” To be honest I would disagree. His voice is pleasant enough or at least has potential. But this visceral reaction to Child of the Same God underscores the disconnect that many will feel. This was not an easy record to review; perhaps because his subject matter is so particular and preachy toward a specific fan base. The music is polished and well produced. It is this combination that exposes the record as essentially a bourgeois exercise in protest.
“The emperor has no clothes. He’s alone in a crowd of peers. The palace has no mirrors.”