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You Make Me Hate Music
Artist: Fine China
Label: Tooth & Nail
Length: 10 tracks, 38:19
The title of Fine China's new album may be a bit deceiving. After thoroughly digesting You Make Me Hate Music, I found that it helped me to develop a love of good music and only hate the cliché, pop/rock music that clutters the airwaves of popular radio. When the title is taken in that context, this latest composition from a band based on originality and using music as art, You Make Me Hate Music can be seen more as a commentary on what true music is and isn't.
Lead singer/guitarist Rob Withem admits to admiring and being strongly influenced by Joy Electric and Starflyer 59. These influences are quite easy to spot. The slower songs easily bring Starflyer 59 to mind, while the faster ones sound much like Joy Electric would with a full band instead of synthesizers. Even the vocals of Withem easily remind me of Joy E's Ronnie Martin. Starflyer 59's Jason Martin co-produced You Make Me Hate Music and it's easy to hear his touch to this album, one that should draw many comparisons to recent Starflyer 59 releases.
The sound of You Make Me Hate Music is much more guitar-driven than Fine China's first Tooth & Nail outing When the World Sings. Depending on the song, the guitar could be a softly-strummed acoustic ("Boo to the Freaks") or an electric with fuzzy distortion ("Don't Say Nothing"). Throughout the album, no matter what the tempo of the song, there is a strong orchestrated feeling to the music that works in holding this collection of songs together as a cohesive unit.
The lyrics on You Make Me Hate Music deal with issues of life that almost everyone will face at some point. The words refrain from shocking topics and even when they seem dark, the music is joyful enough to see hope no matter what the occasion. Some of the topics touched on in You Make Me Hate Music include friendship ("Hug Every Friend"), having very little money ("The Unsuccessful"), being critical of people ("Boo to the Freaks"), and the animosity of others ("The World Wants Me Dead"). The songs are rather serious but comforting in that they are easy to relate to and appreciate.
Fine China has strove to make a quality album for lovers of fine music, and certainly succeeded. For those of you who couldn't get enough of Starflyer's Leave Here a Stranger last year, You Make Me Hate Music could spend a lot of time in your CD player. I know it will find a home in mine.
Trae Cadenhead 4/3/2002
In the realm of garage bands, some make it out of the garage and into the studio while others remain behind, playing to groupies. Tooth and Nail has historically pulled little known bands with a large local following and thrust them into the national spotlight. Some of these bands have been really good – some of them have not. Fine China is not one of these bands.
While production lifts this band above the quality level of your average ‘garage’ band, there is an overriding monotony to the band’s second T&N release, You Make Me Hate Music, making the album seem like one really long song.
Though the band hails from Phoenix, AZ, the vocalist has a definite British accent which adds mystique to the otherwise outdated sound. The band relies heavily on synthesized sound and loops which apparently impressed listeners in Arizona, as the band was named Best Pop Band recently.
Overall, Fine China comes across like a cross between the angsty lyrical style of Nirvana without the musical fire power, and the spacey sound of Fold Zandura – both of whose era has passed.
Kerry Maffeo 4/7/2002
Facing a Bull In Fine China
All too often a critic will act like a bull in a china shop, recklessly tearing up everything in harm's way. Yet on the other hand, to borrow an album title from 70s Canadian rock band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, a good band is "Not Fragile." A good band must be prepared to take on any bull, just like the one that recently trampled Lyle Lovette, as he was heroically saving the life of a dear uncle.
Let's begin with the title, You Make Me Hate Music. “Make’ is a strong word. Most psychologists would argue that nobody possesses the power to make you feel anything. We choose what we feel and how to respond to the provocation of others.
“Hate” is an even stronger word. It conjures up anger, even rage. So why is a nice Christian band whose members worship a God of love expressing an unseemly sentiment like hate? How can a band whose identity is wrapped up in every single note on the musical scale harbor a surreptitious disdain for the very art form that sustains them? Wouldn't this cause an inner sense of fragmentation and an irreparable implosion of collective identity among members of Fine China?
One expects to discover such a shattered-glass scenario, but if you listen to the CD, you will find the band reflecting a characterological consistency--one that could only come from a band who knows who they are and why they are creating and performing music.
The concept behind this concept album is indeed a mystery, but mystery is what makes music good. Paradox and the tension of opposites are what engage the mind and the emotions in a great musical work. "Day and night, birth and death, happiness and misery, good and evil, introversion (inner directedness) and extraversion (outer-directedness), consciousness and unconsciousness, thinking and feeling," and yes, "love and hate." These are all Jungian examples of the "complex of inexorable opposites," examples that are dramatically illustrated and serve as recurrent themes in You Make Me Hate Music. Yet it is the simple manner in which these opposites and concomitant tensions are expressed in You Make Me Hate Music that makes this album so appealing. It is the country, folksy lyrical style of Rob Withem, Fine China's lead singer, guitarist and songwriter that makes it accessible despite its complex psychological content. Though he is no Paul Simon, John Lennon or John McCrea, his lyrics carry a certain elegant profundity reflected in simple chapters, moments and even broken fragments of life stories.
Much to my chagrin, many of my esteemed colleagues--the ones who are overly saturated in Jungian methods of literary and art criticism, would enter You Make Me Hate Music with the same heedlessness as those bulls in a china shop. I can almost hear them now. Some may even go so far as to suggest that the album be re-titled You Make Me Hate My Anima, ill-conceivedly suggesting that a less than perfect relationship with his mother during childhood has caused Withem to look upon the female archetype within himself with a burgeoning sense of contempt.
As an alternative to all the psychobabble, let's try a literal interpretation of this album on and see how it fits. The public is slowly saying, " Bye, Bye, Bye!" to boy bands and Britney Spears. Could it be that this phenomenon helped to fuel the lyrics to the title track, in which Fine China proclaim, "I hate music too/I hate the bands and every song they do." In the words of Cake frontman John McCrae (tunefully uttered on Fashion Nugget) "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps!" As for now, I'm not going to rush to judgment. I'm simply going to end the therapy session I'm supposed to be having with the patient who has long since fallen asleep on my Freudian couch. Then I'm going to kick back and listen to You Make Me Hate Music.
Hey all you bulls out there, "shake, rattle, and roll" all you want. Hammer away, but "You Can't Touch This." Hearts can be broken, but Fine China just won't break. Tight rhythms, refreshingly bouncy, melodic arrangements, deeper-than-meets-the-ear-lyrics and that Stokes-like retro rock feel make this china unbreakable. Look at the Stokesesque devil-may-care haircuts redolent of early Beatles and Stones. Listen to the decidedly non-preachy, tastefully and tactfully delivered devil-may-not-care-but-Jesus-does attitude. Could this be the first Christian rock band to become a part of what I've admittedly prematurely labeled The New Ameri-brit Invasion? That may be stretching things a bit, but I don't want to say, "I told you so" if things turn out that way. Or do I? In any case, I have one final comment. Fine China, you make me want to love your music, and now, thanks to your delicious disc dish, my want has turned to will.
by Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen,
licensed psychologist 4/15/2002