Vortis - God Won't Bless America
2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 11, 2003
Review by Tony BonyataA 61-year-old professor of political philosophy is not exactly what you'd come to expect as an agitating punk rock frontman. But that's just what the Chicago-based band Vortis have leading their crude, genre crossbreeding, socio-political brand of music.
Their latest full-length album, God Won't Bless America, is filled with guitars that cut, slash and burn from G. Haad, along with the floorboard loosening rhythms of bassist Johnny Los and Chicago Sun Times music critic Jim DeRogatis. The music itself often packs the fist-in-the-gut wallop of The Stooges ("Black Block"), latter-day Iggy Pop ("Cell Phone Blues") and the dark metal muck of Black Sabbath ("Fight The War Again). Not stopping there, they also toss in bits of funk and dub ("Catch The Flow"), base gutter punk ("Power Freaks"), folk (the bonus track of "God Won't Bless America Again"), rockabilly ("Hoosier Cruiser"), along with a bit of avant garde musings ("Legions of Doom").
Now if this inbreeding of styles sounds interesting, that's because it is. The only problem here is with the band's leader and soapbox ranter Mike Weinstein (aka Fellow Traveler). It's not that Professor Weinstein's messages on America's involvement in Iraqi affairs are misguided as much as they are sorely misdelivered. Weinstein slurs, brays and howls like a drunk uncle at the last family gathering that ran out of Schnapps a few hours too early. Sure, the lyrics are biting, funny and often right on the money, but when delivered in Weinstein's embarrassingly hack rap delivery, his intellect has been dumbed down significantly.
In the end, it's not the music - which is often thought-provoking as it hovers over the fringes of so many different styles - that's the problem, but rather an obstreperous college professor shoving an entire semester of his class down our throats in 54 minutes.
God may not bless America, but he sure ain't gonna bless this mess either.
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