Idiot Stare's "Welcome To Babylon" was my pick for the best album of 2006. That's sort of a mixed compliment, given the fact that I didn't really listen to any CD's in 2006, but, comparing it to the variety of CD's that did make it onto other people's "best" lists, it easily blows the competition away.
Idiot Stare took steps to make this their best album ever and it paid off. Chad Bishop's band had always been enjoyable, but the songs previously lacked a certain layer that was added when, shortly after 2000, Insight 23's Blayne Alexander was brought into the fold as a vocalist. It filled out the sound and, with his vocal and lyrical bolster, catapulted the band up to the par of any of the best industrial-rock bands out there.
If there are any disappointments about this album, they are generated entirely in my head. Recording and writing for this album lead to demo tracks as early as 2002, with the "Ghost" single arriving in 2003. Further tracks were released in their component parts for remixing purposes... Between all these outlets, eight of the album's ten songs were out there and I had been listening to them for the better part of four years by the time the album arrived. Given that, I was shocked by how little new there was for me on the album, but for anyone who has never heard the album before, it is a beautiful step back to the days that industrial-rock used to be both well-written and enjoyable to listen to, something of a novelty now.
Living with these songs for so long and listening to them constantly over the years, it's hard for me not to be somewhat disappointed by the outcome, as there were no surprises for me, like a child knowing every gift they would receive Christmas morning, and I get the feeling that, having listened to the tracks so much that I can immediately spot where a guitar line or drum fill was changed for the final album, I know the tracks even better than the band.
Sure, I still think the demo version of "Porno" is better than the album version and I prefer my remix of "Mainframe God" over the album version, but this is one of the best albums to come out in years and tracks like the aforementioned "Porno" and "Mainframe God", as well as "Hold Me Down" and "Humiliation", will go down in the annals of industrial-rock history as some of the most fun and well-made songs of the 21st century.
The new listener will be immediately delighted by the styles and songwriting of the album, which delivers the industrial-rock of the 90's that now seems to be forgotten by today's bands, more intent on cranking out thier boring and self-obsessed electronic bullshit that has sucked the fun out of the industrial landscape until it seems that writing an enjoyable song is comparable to treason (unless it's synthpop, in which case its fluffy disposable catchiness is encouraged).
Thank god someone's willing to bring back the fucking bite of industrial music that made most people love it in the first place and, if no one else hears it, it's still a hell of an achievement to single-handedly be keeping a dying genre alive.
Kudos to Blayne, Chad, and the boys on putting together an album that does what most other bands of the past decade haven't been able to do: make music fun again.
Other industrial bands take note.