In the mid-'90s, as industrial metal penetrated the mainstream thanks to torchbearers Nine Inch Nails, acts like Stabbing Westward and Gravity Kills capitalized on that band's popularity with similar-sounding material that would fizzle out by the end of the decade. However, one band in particular had the pedigree to stand out from the glut of soundalikes. Led by former NIN guitarist Richard Patrick and producer Brian Liesegang, Filter released their debut Short Bus in 1995, packing a wallop with enduring hit "Hey Man, Nice Shot" and kicking off a decades-long career that outlasted many period contemporaries. Even though their sound quickly evolved and matured beyond the brutish Short Bus, this first offering cemented them as one of the industrial boom's more recognizable acts. Early comparisons to NIN were unavoidable and, while they were initially dismissed as rip-offs, the association also attracted a significant bulk of crossover fans interested in Patrick's harder-edged, less-sexy yang to Trent Reznor's more nuanced yin. In addition to the heavy similarities between the guitar work here and on Pretty Hate Machine and Broken ("Under," "Spent"), pointed verbal shots stemming from the split were also deeply embedded in the lyrics, giving fans extra drama to pore over. Behind-the-scenes histrionics aside, Short Bus serves its purpose best as the vehicle for introducing the hard rock world to Patrick's inimitable, piercing yowl and his churning vision that melded sludgy grunge with corrosive, mainstream industrial. With very little variation to the formula, the taut set seethes with frustration and vitriol on "Dose," "Take Another," and "White Like That," while even the more subdued moments bludgeon the soul ("Consider This," "Gerbil") and break spirits ("Stuck in Here," "So Cool"). However underdeveloped in its emotional maturity, these simple, relatable sentiments effectively force themselves in through Patrick and Liesegang's unfettered industrial-adjacent delivery. Following the success of Short Bus, Filter contributed a string of fan-favorite songs to beloved cult soundtracks and, due to creative differences, Liesegang parted ways with the group. Leaving Short Bus behind, Patrick expanded his sonic boundaries, improved his production approach, and delved headlong into a more dynamic and melodic attack, incorporating more organic instrumentation, actual singing, and nabbing a Top 20 hit with 1999's "Take a Picture." Filter never sounded quite like this again and Short Bus wound up being a singular snapshot cemented in time, a sleeper hit that became an enduring genre touchstone.
Short Bus Review
by Neil Z. Yeung