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Fuel - Natural Selection Print E-mail
Tuesday, 23 September 2003


Natural Selection
format: CD
label: Epic
release year: 2003
performance: 5
sound 7
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

ImageWhenever you need to fill up the old tank, you can either choose the choicest petrol or settle for the cheap stuff. With this analogy in mind, the band Fuel is clearly on the generic budget side of the filling station spectrum.

Carl Bell writes and Brett Scallions sings the hard-luck songs on Natural Selection with all the bluster, sweat and tears such aggressive rock requires. But even though Bell’s presumably in some dark and secret pain, he’s also particularly bored with himself. Why else, for example, would he sing, “Every day is all the same” on “Down Inside Of You,” then repeat that exact same line on “Million Miles”? Is he bored with himself, or just tired of making this overdone brand of generic rock? Maybe he’s as fed up with creating it, as we are in listening to it. If so, he’s not fueling, er, fooling anyone.

When Bell isn’t writing about sobbing in his beer, he’s making about as much lyrical sense as a drunkard. On “Quarter,” for instance, Scallions sings, “If you could only feed your head/You’d see your hands are bound.” What the heck is that supposed to mean? It comes off a little like Jefferson Airplane-meets-sadomasochism, or just some senseless rambling. On “Million Miles,” Scallions sings, “On my way for the day I find my heart is not for taking,” which reads like an unedited journal entry. Great songwriters are skilled at putting their thoughts into poetic lines, but since Bell is no poet, he fails as a songwriter.

The music on Natural Selection is tightly played and produced by Michael Beinhorn and Bell. Except for “Most Of All,” which features choppy Cars-ish guitars, this is mostly predictable hard rock. Although there’s plenty of screaming metal guitar solos, the overall sound is that of a rock ensemble. But this ensemble of musicians bludgeons the listener like a brigade of sledgehammerers, instead of entertaining like entertainers. It’s akin to watching a soap opera marathon, and just wishing somebody would tell a joke. Even a bad one.

But Fuel isn’t kidding around here: This is serious rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s also seriously repetitious and lyrically incoherent rock. The tank may be full, but the vehicle is going nowhere fast. Not only that, it’s emitting aural pollutants into the air. It’s ultimately about as worthless as human gas, if you know what I mean.

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