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12 Stones - Anthem for the Underdog
12 Stones - Anthem for the Underdog
Record Label: Wind-Up Records
Release Date: August 14, 2007
12 Stones’ third album is aptly named; the band, all natives of Southern Louisiana, suffered the full affects of the devastating Hurricane Katrina that hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. Using their pent up grief and anger as the fuel that feeds the fire, Anthem for the Underdog is an album that comes from the heart. It's clear that every word and every line written tells a story of a bitter tragedy and the struggles and trials it brought to the band. Anthem for the Underdog is a record which counteracts sorrow with rage; the mournful dulcet “Lie to Me,” “Broken Road,” and especially the beautiful “World So Cold” blend with the biting anxious title track, the shouty “Games You Play,” and the intense “This Dark Day.” The antithesis works well and projects a good overall tone to the album. At their best 12 Stones can produce a strong blend of radio friendly rock and post-grunge. “Lie to Me” and “Hey Love” are perhaps the best examples of this. The band is comprised of pretty talented musicians. Paul McCoy, who shot to fame when he contributed vocals to the smash Evanescence hit “Bring Me to Life,” which incidentally won him a Grammy Award, uses his impassioned voice well over the raucous churning and gentle strumming of the guitars, which are probably the band’s best feature.
If Anthem for the Underdog’s biggest benefit is its passion and heart, its biggest detriment is that it is rather generic and a little thin. Only “World So Cold” stand out as being anywhere close to special, and some tracks just scream standard mindless radio friendly rock music. “Broken Road” almost sounds like a clone of “Lie to Me,” which is made worse by the fact that the tracks are back to back on the record. “Arms of a Stranger,” rather than sounding mournful and catchy, sounds bland and soppy, “Hey Love” shows some definite Creed influences (which is perhaps appropriate considering their label - Wind-Up Record, the label Creed made), and “It Was You” is far too formulaic and simplistic to be anything more than totally average. It also doesn’t help that 12 Stones have shown little progression during the five year gap between the release of their first and third LPs. “Games You Play,” “Adrenaline,” and “This Dark Day” could easily have appeared on the band’s eponymous debut album. Nowhere is the generic feel of this album more audible than in Paul McCoy’s lyrics. Although some creativity and passion can be found within the lyrics, they are few and far between, buried amongst the clichéd and passé lines. “It Was You” demonstrates this the best, with McCoy’s wet calls of “It was you / That showed me who I am / And taught me how to stand / For what I know is real.” It also doesn’t help that the disc only contains ten songs (plus an acoustic track). 12 Stones had three years between Potter’s Field and this release. You might have hoped that even through all the heartache of living through the greatest natural disaster to strike the United States in history they may have come up with more than ten songs. At 35 minutes and with every song clocking it under or at four minutes long, the album definitely seems shallow.
Anthem for the Underdog is clearly an important record for 12 Stones. It is the band’s emotional and creative channel through which they have poured all their thoughts and sorrows accumulated over the past year. The record does tell an interesting story and paints a notable picture, and there are plenty of moments and tracks on the disc that are worth praising. However, it’s just a massive shame that the band also dilutes the undeniable strength of tracks like “Lie to Me,” “Hey Love,” and “World So Cold” with generic filler tracks such as “It Was You,” “Arms of a Stranger,” and particularly the acoustic version of “Lie to Me,” which feels like a poor attempt to flesh out a thin record. Your average AP.net user may find the record a little passé but there is still plenty of enjoyment to be had from the record, but don’t expect to be paying it too much attention; it’s not exactly a record that demands to be heard repeatedly. It’s not so much that Anthem for the Underdog is a bad record, by no means, but when compared to the heavy hitting albums in 2007 alternative hard rock like Foo Fighters’ Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace or Alter Bridge’s Blackbird, it feels thoroughly average. Anthem for the Underdog suffers from all the flaws and vices of mainstream rock. It’s very accessible, short and never tests the waters of the deep end, all of which will surely be a turn off for the more discerning music lover. Anthem for the Underdog is an album that’s hard to hate, but it’s even harder to love.