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Artist: Fighting Instinct
Label: Gotee Records (2006)
Ask the members of any up and coming rock band to name their influences and you’ll get the usual litany of venerable classic acts – Sabbath, Clapton, Skynyrd – along with an alternatively-inclined outfit or two (Soundgarden, anyone?) thrown in for hipness’ sake. As pat as such answers may seem, the members of Greensboro, North Carolina’s Fighting Instinct seem to make good on their claim of pulling from all things both old and new. “You Don’t Know” shows off the band’s go-to sound: gritty, guitar-driven, ‘70s-tinged rock and roll. The equally funk-fueled “My Heart Cries Out,” by comparison, swims in the same waters as alt-metal practitioners like P.O.D. and System of a Down. Interestingly, the band shows an equal, or even greater, skill with softer, more pop-inclined fare. “Crush” sounds as if it could have been an outtake from the first Lifehouse record. And the likewise beautiful, acoustically-based “Just to Please You” suggests that a live worship album from the group might be well worth a listen.
The band does have a tendency to borrow liberally, some might say plagiaristically, from its influences. Be that as it may, the swaggering, power-chord-driven anthem, “I Found Forever,” is an unqualified winner even in light of its note-for-note appropriation of the melody from The Babys’ 1977 Top 20 hit, “Isn’t It Time.” Likewise, the driving rhythms and spirited vocals of the emo-tinged “Light My Way” just about compensate for the song’s overly close approximation of Mae’s “Someone Else’s Arms.” “You Found Me First,” which veers uncomfortably near Winger’s “Seventeen,” is nevertheless buoyed by a funk-filled groove potent enough to power Los Angeles for a month. And “Back to You,” despite its painfully obvious parallelism to First Call’s “I Will Always Come Back to You,” offers sparkling proof that the pop and metal genres need not be perpetually at odds.
Their undeniable instrumental acumen notwithstanding, front man T. J. Harris and his cohorts are far more unpredictable when it comes to the lyrical half of the freshman effort. The terse repetition of “Crush” (The rush that she gives me/ Is it just how she sees me) lends it a captivating verbal rhythm. Similarly, the impact and clarity of “My Heart Cries Out” (Without you/ I’m not at all) lie largely in the simplicity of its wording. “I Found Forever,” on the other hand, is mostly submerged by its overly trite sentimentality. “Back to You” (Sitting here all away from you/ I’ve tried so hard/ I don’t know what I should do) is likewise overwhelmed by its unoriginal language. And the words to “Don’t You Know” (Your eyes are watching me closely/ But all that’s on your mind is my unreal faults) read more like the transcript of a casual conversation than they do the lyrics to an actual song.
Of course, the F.I. troop is hardly alone in its word-related struggles. Indeed, very few rockers are able to wax poetic as easily as they toss off a blistering guitar solo or hit high C. And, in its defense, the band is no more guilty than Cheap Trick, Lenny Kravitz or even Led Zeppelin – all generally well-respected acts – when it comes to pilfering the odd lyric or riff. Besides, given that they pull from acts as far removed as Mae, First Call and the Babys, only those with the broadest, most longstanding association with the rock and pop catalogs are likely to know the difference. Offering up the ideal soundtrack for the flagging long-distance runner or post-game victory celebration party, Harris and his mates can rightly be proud of their bracing, musically savvy debut outing.
Bert Gangl, (11.29.06)