• Filter
  • Short Bus (Reprise) 1995 
  • Title of Record (Reprise) 1999 

If this Cleveland-bred band hadn’t managed a gold record with its debut, it could probably have made a nice living working the tribute circuit under a name like Eight Inch Nails. It should come as no surprise that the specter of Trent Reznor looms large over Short Bus — after all, Filter mastermind Richard Patrick played in an early touring version of NIN. But the slavish manner in which he and programmer/guitarist Brian Liesegang strive to replicate his precursor’s industrial angst is downright embarrassing.

While Patrick puts abundant energy into his attempts to shock, his targets are yawn-worthy in their obviousness: “Hey Man Nice Shot” (the single of which includes Dust Brothers remixes) revisits not Kurt Cobain’s self-destruction (as many presumed) but the inadvertently televised suicide that inspired Rapeman’s far more ominous “Budd” seven years earlier. Short Bus seldom gets more clever than that: like most post-industrial auteurs, Patrick exploits the weaknesses of society’s less fortunate, naming the album in “solidarity” with the handicapped children who ride specially equipped coaches and using “Gerbil” and “Spent” as chances to sample the rantings of a fairly damaged individual. Artistic license should not exempt Filter from charges of Gingrich-esque heartlessness.

[Deborah Sprague]

See also: Nine Inch Nails