Any Man In America
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Any Man In America (Explicit)
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Since the band's inception in 1995, Blue October has been a refuge for its fans worldwide. The band built a loyal audience, exploding into the mainstream with mega-hits 'Hate Me,' 'Into The Ocean,' and 'Dirt Room.' They have had high profile film and TV placements The Sopranos, Saw III and NCIS. A cathartic tale of heartbreak and healing through thirteen distinct songs, Any Man In America is a musical journey told with unbridled lyrical honesty, anthemic modern rock hooks, and melodic soundscapes.
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`Any Man in America' is easily the most personal and most intimate album from Blue October. Each track is a snippet of Justin's current situation. Throughout the twelve tracks Justin chronicles the demise of his marriage and the bitter custody battle that followed. With a young child thrown in the mix, life can get messy, and Justin exposes his personal weaknesses as well as the evil thrown upon him by people he thought loved him.
One thing that never leaves Justin is passion. This album is thriving on that passion. One never doubts Justin's intentions, and even when he is spouting out hateful rants we can hear the frustrated betrayal that has corroded the love he still has burning in his heart for the one who has hurt him to severely. It is this quality that really makes `Any Man in America' work so strongly as a whole. Blue October's continual diversity also propels this album, for six albums in they have yet to `repeat' their sound, unlike other popular bands who regurgitate the same songs over and over. Blue October continues to sound fresh and create music that stands on its own.
The day after `Any Man in America' was released I had the privilege of seeing Blue October kick off their `Any Man in America' tour, where they played this album in its entirety (as well as a slew of other songs from their impressive discography) and it was in that setting, watching Justin bleed emotionally on stage (honestly, best live show I have ever seen) that this album came together for me. While on its own, the album is a major highlight in their career and possibly second best, right behind `Foiled' (which is utter perfection), the live performance really elevated the material because it solidified the honesty one hears in the delivery of each word and chord. When one can make that emotional connection to a performance because they are baring their soul it is a special thing. I am not the type to become attached to celebrities because, well, they are celebrities and their persona really isn't a true reflection of self. With Justin things are different because he is one of the more honest celebrities (if you can call him that), and it shows in every mannerism he expresses. Having experienced situations similar (though not as severe) as the one he currently finds himself, this album hits a tender spot in my heart.
`The Feel Again (Stay)' is possibly the most emotionally crippling song I've ever fallen in love with.
So, I'll start there. `The Feel Again (Stay)' opens the album brilliantly. The soft and heartbreaking ballad has Justin pleading with his now ex-wife to reconstruct their family. You can feel his love for her, despite the pain she has caused him. He wants to be there as a husband and a father, and he addresses their daughter, stating that they have THREE PEOPLE to think about now. Having gone through a separation myself, while my daughter was young, I totally understand this comment for it is one that I made personally. Moving into `Money Tree', Blue October ups the tempo with a musical arrangement that has rock pop overtones that lends a bouncier atmosphere to the song and backing electronic beats that add different shades. Here Justin broaches his marital struggles by stating that he is who he is and has always been and isn't changing, and that she should be able to accept him. Instead he's left leaving on tour to support her careless spending and make sure that his daughter has a stable home. He also laments over petty arguments that both sides should put aside, for if they could cut it out then there would be no reason to leave.
`For the Love' and `Drama Everything' are the only two tracks here that I'm not completely sold on. It isn't the lyrical matter, because the verses on `For the Love' are especially effective (Justin basically tells us the story of his marital cracks, expressing how his wife basically pushed him out of the experience surrounding his daughter's birth) but the chorus on both tracks is somewhat sappy and too dated sounding without enough uplift to create a real emotional swell. `For the Love' sounds a little sloppy. `Drama Everything' fares better, and it was expertly conveyed in their live performance. I still am not entirely happy with the chorus structure, which sounds a little too popish in execution, but I guess I shouldn't complain too much about the bands diverse musical approach.
I laud it.
`The Chills' was the first single off the album, and it is indicative of what many think when they hear the name Blue October. It is loud and abrasive but in a totally catchy manner. It reminds one of songs like `Dirt Room', yet not as sinister. It's more aggressive than `Should Be Loved' or `Say It' but certainly rides that wave of infectious intensity. Justin sings about that feeling you get under your skin when things just aren't working like you wanted them to. You get this intense feeling when seeing the person you love so dearly yet detest so strongly.
LIES LIES LIES spill and all you hear is BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Back in late 2009, Justin suffered an anxiety attack aboard an airplane due to stress caused by the collapse of his marriage (and having been informed a few hours earlier of his wife's infidelity and the emotional connection his daughter had formed with another man) where he basically blacked out, caused some worry and wound up in a mental hospital, soon to be diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. `The Flight (Lincoln to Minneapolis)' chronicles that day with rap overtones and electric beats. Opening with a conversation between Justin and his wife, Justin sets the tone for his mental state and then raps (quite effectively at that) about his feelings. As strong as this song is on the album, this is probably the best track they played live; just completely engrossing and heartfelt. The way that Justin confronts his own emasculated feelings over having his wife stomp all over his dreams is given so much edge in his delivery. He really nails the tone needed for the `style' they went with this track. Following a similar lyrical flow, Justin opens the title track, `Any Man in America' by praising Eminem for exposing his own demons with his marriage and his struggle to be there for his daughter, because now Justin is living in that prison himself. The whole point of this album is wrapped up in the message within this track, about how the legal system certainly favors the `mother' regardless of the circumstances, and even when a father is above and beyond devoted to their child they can lose their rights in favor for a woman who did him wrong. This is yet another track that was better on stage than I felt it worked on the album itself; although I truly `like' this song a lot. I only wish that Justin had actually gotten Eminem, an artist he has openly expressed admiring and respecting numerous times, to do the guest rapping vocals as opposed to newcomer Ray C. I just don't quite care for his rapping style, which lacks the aggressive passion that Eminem could have brought to this song.
I am totally in love with the chorus to `You Waited Too Long'; such a beautifully almost playful contrast to the darker nature of the verse structure, and yet it works like magic. `The Honesty' has such poetic flow and the chorus is stunningly melodic, with Justin's vocals pulling you in with every swell. The message being the song, that of using honesty to strengthen a relationship and how the lack of that honesty has deteriorated his own, is poignant and beautifully conveyed without feeling preachy. `The Getting Over It Part' expresses that point in the dissolve of a relationship that results in feelings of just being completely `over it' in a way that you just want it to end so that you can move on. Some relationships, especially those involving children, are not that easy to walk away from, but it doesn't negate the fact that you get to a point where you wish you could just wash your hands of it all.
And then you have the haunting `The Worry List'. This song brought me to tears at the concert; so heartfelt and honest. Despite all the aggression and anger, underneath the seething lyrics is a man breaking from the inside out as he watches his family slip through his fingers. The soft and intimate nature of the song just adds so much to the emotional wallop it serves right to the chest; especially when Justin sings about holding god in his arms and anyone blessed enough to have held their own little wonder in their arms will understand that sentiment.
The closing track, `The Follow Through', takes everything Justin lamented over on the course of the album itself and wraps it up in his resolve to continue to try, for his daughter. Checking bitterness at the door he has to be a man and take hold of his responsibilities. The song feels like Staind a bit, the more melodic rock format, and Justin's vocals soar in the chorus. It is the perfect way to close out an album that is beautifully designed to take you deep inside the mindset of a man tortured by his current predicament, and Patricia Lynn Drew's vocal accompaniment is a beautiful asset to the track.
So, I hope that this review has proven helpful in appreciating the depths explored in this deeply personal and beautifully constructed album. As a whole, this is a sensational album with ridiculous highs and very minor lows. The only disappointing thing about this album is that it means I'll probably have to wait three more years for new music from one of the greatest bands making music today.
For those of you interested; my personal track rankings:
1) The Feel Again (Stay)
2) The Worry List
3) The Chills
4) The Honesty
5) The Money Tree
6) You Waited Too Long
7) The Follow Through
8) The Flight (Lincoln to Minneapolis)
9) The Getting Over It Part
10) Any Man in America
11) Drama Everything
12) For the Love
Some music makers become bloated, self-indulgent egomaniacs who don't realize their music is no longer connecting. They hide behind platitudes and falsities, but Justin Furstenfeld continues to bare his soul with each successive release, guaranteeing an emotional impact.
Talking about your divorce and child custody woes can come off self-serving in the wrong hands, but on "Any Man In America" it comes off as direct, blunt and painful. I'm sure there are many music listeners (non-fans) who would not enjoy listening to "Any Man In America", but for the fans (myself included) it is refreshing and satisfying.
Everything about "Any Man In America" resonates from the child drawing of Furstenfeld on the cover, to Justin's message to his fans and his daughter on the back of the insert booklet, to the photographs of Justin and his daughter at the airport, plus the other band members and their children. This is a parent-child affair.
The words are at times scathing, and at other times self-reflective. The band should be given a great deal of credit for backing Justin up as this album is truly his baby and vision. The band ably applies the right feel to each track. With repeatedly listening the emotional impact washes over you, and before you know it the album is over and you want to re-play it to absorb all of its nuances. This is by far the best Blue October album of their career. Sadly, the general public will once again turn a blind eye (or deaf ear) to this great band that has worked hard since their 1998 debut to build a fan base and not sell out. They have had a brief brush with fame with 2006's "Hate Me" from "Foiled" before sliding back into relative obscurity (and Justin even addresses this fact on this album!)
There are so many strong passages of self-reflective songwriting here that "Any Man In America" holds up extremely well to repeated listening. This is an album that works as a whole, and should be experienced that way, in the order is was intended, not on shuffle. The singles "The Chills" and "The Feel Again (Stay)" are great songs, but they are taken out of context when listened to on their own.
I have been listening to "Any Man In America" for quite some time and it is difficult to select any one track that is my favorite as I like them all. This is a classic, five star album. One in which all the songs are strong, no single one stands out. They could all be alternative rock hits on modern rock radio or college radio or alternative rock radio. I suppose if pressed I would have to say that "The Money Tree", "The Getting Over It Part", "The Worry List" and "The Follow Through" are great tracks, but why single them out when you could easily pick "The Feel Again (Stay)", "Drama Everything", "The Flight (LNK to MSP)", "Any Man In America" or "You Waited Too Long".
If you have just discovered Blue October this is a great place to start. You should buy the cd or digital album now, then go back and buy all of their other works because they're all solid. It's been a very long time since I've heard an album as emotionally absorbing as "Any Man In America". It is in the same league as Tori Amos' "Little Earthquakes", Peter Gabriel's "Us", or Jane Siberry's "When I Was A Boy". Certainly one of the top albums of 2011.
Here is how "Any Man In America" compares to the band's previous works:
1998 The Answers: Four Stars
2000 Consent To Treatment: Three and a Half Stars
2003 History For Sale: Four and a Half Stars
2006 Foiled: Four Stars
2009 Approaching Normal: Three and a Half Stars
2011 Any Man In America: Five Stars