Serj Tankian: Harakiri – album review

Serj Tankian: ”˜Harakiri’ (Serjical Strike/Reprise Records)
CD/DL/LP
Out Now

Armenian-American singer Serj Tankian started out as part of alt-metal band System Of A Down before going it alone. This year he’s set out with the lofty intent of releasing 4 albums all with political content. The first of these albums has just been released & Colin McCracken bravely took it upon himself to give it the once over for us. Read his thoughts below.

Ex-System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian has just released the first of what will be four solo albums to be put out this year. A risky maneuver from any artist. Harakiri is quite easily his most politically subversive record to date, but does the music itself reach the lofty heights of his political idealism?

The unfortunate answer is no. Harakiri presents the listener with somewhat of a conundrum. While it tries to educate and inform its audience of the ills of the evils of our modern ways of life, it does so over some of the most tuneless and hollow musical structures which I have heard in some time. A great deal of SOAD’s success lay in the quality of the musicians and the diluted, fragmented sound which Tankian brings with this record falls nothing short of irritating. Occasional glimpses of brilliance quickly dissolve into childish sing songs and irksome preaching (”˜Ching Chime’, I’m looking at you).

The problem is that I can fully empathise with the points which he is trying to make, but I feel that he is using the wrong method to purvey them. The overall sense which one gets from Harakiri is akin to being lectured by a first year art student at a house party. Tankian will establish a reasonably erudite standpoint which will then lead, more often than not, into a tenuously connected, nonsensical chorus which denigrates the sincerity of the initial points which he intended to make.

Harakiri: Video directed by Nico Sabenorio

I do not wish to imply that I am suggesting that politics and environmental standpoints have no place in music. Quite the contrary in fact. Acts such as Rage Against The Machine, Billy Bragg, Crass and Leftover Crack have all made careers from making fantastic music which is overtly political. The difference being that their songs are decent, memorable and above all enjoyable. I don’t disagree with the motives and central message behind Michael Jackson‘s ”˜Earth Song’, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t complete garbage.

The title track is without a doubt the album highlight, but even at a sparse 45 minutes, this is an arduous and difficult listen. Even the most seasoned SOAD fans (who must all be pushing thirty now) will have to force themselves to stop from cringing as Serj belts out mantras such as ”˜We’ve been sodomised by repetition’.

Yes Serj, that’s quite true, as have my ears by this album. I am less than enthusiastic to see what the next three have in store for us. If you want to learn about the subjects which are touched upon in this album, just watch some documentaries or better still read a book.

Serj’s website can be found here. He’s on Facebook here, Myspace here & has a YouTube channel here.

All words by Colin McCracken. You can read more from Colin on LTW here, on his website The Zombie Hamster or follow him on Twitter.

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