Some flack touted Give the People What They Want in Lethal Doses, by Chi-town’s Challenger, as "possibly the best record Jade Tree’s ever released" – a heavy statement, as a couple of my all-time faves are on J.T. Maybe that’s why I didn’t dive right into the album – hot air, however gently puffed, you know? So I thrust my chin out like an obstinate gorilla and refused to really like the album for a while. I thought of things I could call it in a review without really saying anything about it: Edgy. Angular. Maybe even the kiss of death: vaguely reminiscent of Fugazi. But you know what? This is the part in all of my overblown, self-obsessed maundering where I reach for transcendence with my greasy little paws: Challenger are none of those things, silly.
Their lyrics, of course, sealed the deal: "Anakastic existence. Love? It’s just an added expense and this operation must downsize," one of the singer guys screams – either Al Burian and Dave Laney. Lately (since, say, Buddy Holly did "Peggy Sue") love songs seem played-out, and I sort of dug the crassness in the managerial talk – enough to look up "anakastic." Turns out, I think, he means "anankastic," as in "anankastic personality disorder," wherein a person "is preoccupied with rules, procedures and efficiency, is overly devoted to work or productivity, and is usually deficient in the ability to express warm or tender emotions." Give the People What They Want: the sound of alienation, the sound of trying to come across with the warm and tender in a world where everyone’s got a cable modem hooked up to their heart and information’s moving at a speed that’s just too fast for that old hunk of meat. Jarvik 7? Fuck that! We need full-on digital hearts, microprocessing – speed, speed, speed – you can keep that Fisher-Price shit. It’s dissonant, jagged – did I say edgy and angular? – it’s the human being lawnmower, as the MC5 said. "You’re always looking for somebody to tell you, ‘Hey, it’s all right if you want to spend the night,’ " Singerman sings on "This Is Only a Test," and he’s answered by a female voice in the next tune, "Brand Loyalty": "You’re great but it’s never going to work out between us…. After tonight, we’ll never be together again."
So it’s bleak, which is OK by me since I only had to reach for the dictionary once, and even then, the word was misspelled. Too many 50-cent words and an intelligent punk band with heart start sounding like Bad Religion – a Ph.D. dissertation with power chords. Even the fact that I noticed seems to speak of perfectionism bordering on anankastic personality disorder.