You know the various Sims games, right? The virtual torture simulator/doll house that allows you to be a voyeuristic little god in a world of your own making? Rather than wax eloquent about the harem of Ken dolls I created for my gorgeous avatar or talk about my virtual neighborhood populated by Trent Reznor & Triana from Violin, I mention The Sims for a different reason. One of the more fun details of the game was the sound design. You had Sims Radio, which was music designed to sound like a specific genre but never like a specific song. And of course you had Simlish the phonemic-heavy speech which sounded like language but never actually used any real words. If you logged enough time with the game, you could find yourself singing along to nonsense or repeating your avatars’ conversation as if you were using a language tape.
I was reminded of these clever tricks when I listened to the next CD I picked from the I can’t Quit You list: Something Like Human by Fuel. I’ve tried to find a reason to keep it. Problem is, other than the hits that were on the radio, like “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” or “Bad Day,” every other song sounded like it had been made as background sound for a Sims game. Maybe that’s the trouble with buying a CD just for the hits from the radio. You hear what you want & ignore the rest. But I have a suspicion that the bland yogurt sound on Something Like Human goes a little deeper than that.
Fuel apparently really like their guitars & you can tell by the driving riffs that open nearly every non-hit song. It makes me think that Fuel aspired to be a metal band but somehow didn’t find a spot at the cool table. Something Like Human acts like the band’s desperate proof that you can rawk & have a hit song, damn the naysayers. Ozzy Osbourne once said the only reason he got into music was because he wanted to write hits like John Lennon & Paul McCartney. Fuel clearly wanted to be a little more like Ozzie & went through the prerequisite motions.
Ok, well, you can have a song that might not sound great if your lyrics are interesting. Turns out, wordplay isn’t high on Fuel’s song-crafting skill set. With lines like “Since you’re gone all is wrong,” “Draw the shades and close my eyes, I never want to see again,” and “I gave you everything that I could provide,” the album is a general Ode to the One Who Hurt Me. Just fill in a distant parent, a false friend or (as I originally did in 2000 when the CD came out) a love interest who hurt you. Turn volume up & enjoy your sense of vindicated pain. We all might as well be listening Simlish, just focusing on the sound of words without any real meaning.
With that in mind, the ambiguity of the “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” music video suddenly makes a lot of sense. Is she bleeding from a burst appendix or did she bust a gut laughing at the emotive bro-ness of the band’s video performance? Did she die? Is that a happy ending? What? Is this the Dewey Cox school of symbolism? (Metaphor means SECRET!)
In the end, the songs on Something Like Human are split into two categories: rock radio hits & songs that disavow any popularity those radio hits might attract. Fuel may not be cool enough for the metal table, but they will be cooler than you, their average listener. Unfortunately, the sound of “cool” is as interchangeable as a song on Sims Radio. Farewell, Fuel, and arzje bit marshoe eee.