Filter – The Sun Comes Out Tonight (2013)

Posted: June 24, 2013 in Music

filter-coverI knew a few months back that writing an article for July was going to be a tough task. I realized the days would be longer, the swim pool colder, and the desire to sit in front of a computer minimal. Making the task even more difficult is the fact that July and August are notoriously the worst months for new releases in music. In fact, unless you get excited over Keith Urban or Jay-Z, the list of new CDs hitting the shelves in the next six weeks is pretty meager.

June, however, was a different story. We talked about the Alice In Chains album in these pages last month, ignoring many of the other fantastic releases that hit record stores around the same time. There was the triumphant return of an Ozzy Osbourne-led Black Sabbath with the amazing “13”, the sophmore effort “Be” from former-Oasis amalgamation Beady Eye, thrash metal gods Megadeth unleashed “Super Collider”, Queens of the Stone Age returned with “…Like Clockwork”, and Christian rockers Skillet (who stole the show at Rock Jam 2011) put out their ninth album “Rise” – and that’s just a small sampling of the plethora of great albums not even yet a month old.

All of these albums landed somewhere in between the “pretty good” and the “excellent” ranges on my music meter, but one stood a little bit taller than the rest. And in a month as strong as June was, that’s quite an accomplishment.

The album I speak of is “The Sun Comes Out Tonight” by Filter. Most of you know the band from their chart-topping single “Take A Picture” from way back in 2002, or possibly from their breakthrough track “Hey Man, Nice Shot” from their debut Short Bus in 1995. Regardless of how (or if) you know the band, it’s 2013 – and the band has released quite possibly their crowning achievement. Even if it took them almost twenty years to get there.

And a bumpy road it’s been. Filter is, has, and always will be centered around former Nine Inch Nails guitarist Richard Patrick. As an accomplished songwriter and musician, Patrick has applied a “do-it-all” attitude to almost all of the band’s music over their six-album history, which has led to ever-changing lineups, shifts in style and approach, and a general sense of disarray that has kept fans guessing and superstardom just out of reach.

On the surface, The Sun Comes Out Tonight is more of the same song and dance following the same predictable formula. Patrick wrote and recorded most of the album himself (although the album does credit guitarist Johnny Radtke as co-writer). The songs move from genre to genre, shifting from angst-ridden industrial rock, radio-friendly radio hits, and slower, personal tracks obviously penned by Patrick and his penchant for the folrlorn. Pretty much your typical Filter album, right? Well – not exactly.

In past efforts, Patrick has shown both his brilliance and his naivety when putting together his records. Even from the early days, Filter albums have had great tracks counterbalanced with forgettable ones – but such is not the case here. I’m not sure if it was the inclusion of Radtke, or maybe just a smarter, wiser Richard Patrick at work – but The Sun Comes Out Tonight glows with definition, variation, and excellence that – finally – play out into a cohesive album of grand proportions.

On the topic of the overall direction of the new CD, Patrick has stated, “We have this beautiful record that starts off heavy and mean and then it goes back to the more moody, almost joyful parts of life. For me, the record that we always try to model is the ‘Title Of Record’ era — that sets the standard in how heavy and how light we can go. We just aspire to make the songs as good and I think the songwriting is superior, we just have to make sure the performances are as desperate and powerful as those crazy takes I did when I was kid.”


And by looking back at what got him here, Patrick might have channeled in to something special. The songs are exactly as advertised: sounding both desperate and powerful throughout much of the disc. The familiar guitar crunch and screams in the albums first two tracks (“We Hate It When You Get What You Want”/”What Do You Say”) definitely start the album off on the right foot. Patrick has always seemed most comfortable pounding out stomp-filled anthems like these, and he hasn’t missed a beat here.

When Patrick stumbles, it  usually comes with the softer, radio hits. I’ve always understood that these songs sell records, but never understood why bands feel the need to include them when – frankly – they aren’t very good at writing them. Admittedly, Filter has gotten a little better at this over the years. “Fades Like a Photograph” off the last record The Trouble With Angels was an absolute gem, and the next two tracks “Surprise” and “The Sun Comes Out Tonight”  continue to show a progression towards good-if-not-great songwriting.  In the past, these tracks would have been skipped over, but here – they are charming.

“It’s Got To Be Right Now” is hard hitting and infectious, and “This Finger’s For You”  shows Patrick can still deliver the anger and fury the way he did twenty years ago. “First You Break It” reaffirms the fact that Filter has fine-tuned their hit-making machine, “Burn It” delivers the same blinding punch as the opening tracks, and “Take That Knife Out of My Back” took me right back to “Hey Man…” with it’s steady, unadulterated bassline and hook.

Amidst all the ebb and flow lies “It’s My Time” at the end of the record. The track is nothing but Patrick’s clean vocals and piano, but is easily the most haunting, revealing track the band has ever recorded. For years, Richard Patrick has been considered by many as an egotistical, jaded asshole – but here he strips himself of that negativity in an open letter of apology, introspection, and grace. A triumph in maturity and sobriety, and a song I’ll never forget.
As a complete work, the record is a testament to strong song-writing, impeccable production, and an absolute focus in putting together the best collection of songs possible, and Filter – despite their inabilty to pull it all together in the past – have outdone themselves.

Normally, when an album teeters back and forth between the angry and the bliss like this, it feels like a bad roller-coaster ride, making it difficult to keep my lunch down. Somehow, The Sun Comes Out Tonight fed me the Dramamine and made the whole experience an amazing thrill ride – one that I’ll get off and go immediately to the end of the line to ride again and again.


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