The Fever 333 - Made an America Album Review
To fans of chaotic punk/hardcore/alternative music, the breakup of Jason Butler's previous band, letlive., must seem like forever ago. letlive. had an interesting combination of influences involved in its compositions, from Glassjaw to Refused, and when they called it quits, everyone waited not-so-patiently for frontman Jason Butler to come out with a new, equally unusual project. Sure enough, Butler finally teased fans with a surprise show in the back of a donut shop accompanied by Stephen Harrison of the Chariot and Aric Improta of Night Verses. To put it plainly, shit was about to go down.
A few months later, and we are once again treated to a surprise release from Butler's new project, officially titled The Fever 333: a new 7-song EP titled Made an America. As a huge letlive. fan, I followed the formation of this band pretty closely, including the pre-release singles. The two songs they put out early on, "We're Coming In" and "Hunting Season," I had mixed feelings about. While they undoubtedly contained the aggressive, unpredictable energy I had come to expect, they were somewhat simplistic, and repetitive enough that they got old quickly. Energetic and fun, but not particularly deep, these songs suffered without the context of the rest of the album. With the EP now out, I can say that these songs do sound better, and the release as a whole is solid and satisfying, if somewhat lacking in depth.
The album opens with the title track, "Made an America," a powerful anthem decrying the impossible odds facing impoverished neighborhoods in America. The message isn't exactly revelatory, but the song is hard-hitting due to powerful percussion in the verses (a recurring force on this album) and the pseudo-rapping of Butler. Perhaps the biggest surprise and deviation from previous works of Butler is the anthemic, pop-punkish choruses present on this song, and nearly every song on the rest of the album. On this track it works, but on others, it is less successful.
Previously mentioned hardcore-focused track, "We're Coming In" is next, followed by another curveball "(The First Stone) Changes," a track that features prominent rapping by guest Yelawolf in the verses. The rapping actually works quite well - but here is where the songs start to falter a bit. The singing in the chorus is quite generic, and the guitar riff is just...well, it wouldn't sound out of place in a country-pop song. If that combination sounds odd, it is, and it doesn't really work. Luckily, this is probably the weakest point on the album, and its mostly uphill from this point on.
Next we get previous single "Hunting Season," repetitive but very much in the spirit of both letlive. and Rage Against the Machine (who is a heavy influence on this album in both lyrics and musical composition). More rage-filled, in-your-face songs like this help break up the album, especially after songs like "Changes." "Soul'd Me Out" rides this aggression into some fast-paced punk verses, before going into a surprisingly melancholy and heartfelt chorus. The balance of these two opposing forces really works, and makes this one of the more memorable songs on the album. "Walking In My Shoes" is forgettable as a result. The lyrics "I can't take any more of this" blare as the song crescendos, but these aren't exactly groundbreaking lyrics for anyone not 15 years old, and the song suffers as a result. Finally, comes "POV," another angry pseudo-rap jam that cracks slightly from the same juvenility. "Middle finger to the face, that's our point of view" just doesn't really resonate with me as a hard-hitting line. And maybe if the Fever 33 wasn't so sincere in its delivery, it wouldn't be as noticeable. But they are, and it is, ending this EP on a bit of an unsavory cliffhanger.
This album will undoubtedly be enjoyable for fans of letlive., Stray From The Path (their newer releases) and, of course, Rage Against the Machine. Despite some steps back in lyrical content and creativity, there are some genuinely interesting songs on this album, and others that are combative, fast and heavy enough to make up for the weaker points, making "Made an America" a worthwhile release.