I wrote yesterday of my search for a certain song in the early years of the internet. Back then, any attempt at tracking down a specific topic via search engine would likely yield wildly varying results, lending the endeavor a greater sense of adventure. My personal pursuit for Taproot’s “Poem” was one such journey, one that along the way unearthed a far greater treasure than the ultimate destination. It took me several uncertain lyric searches and wading through all the dauntingly dense findings, but for my troubles I would emerge with “Open Your Eyes,” by the German alt-rock group Guano Apes.
It’s hard not to root for a success story like that of Guano Apes. After winning a talent competition on German music television, they were commissioned to compose a theme for the 1998 European Snowboarding Championships. The resulting single, “Lords of the Boards,” elevated the band’s status even further, and their debut album, ‘Proud Like a God,’ went multi-platinum throughout Europe. The band would only release two more albums before going on an eight year long hiatus. In 2011, they returned with a new album, ‘Bel Air,’ recapturing some of their former success while embracing a significantly different sound.
It was their first single, “Open Your Eyes,” that first won them the attention of the world and a young me. After all these years, it still holds up better than most, indicating that there was a lot to distinguish Guano Apes from their nu-metal ilk. For a start, the lyrics are surprisingly intelligent, especially considering the song was composed for the aforementioned talent contest. There is a very competitive spirit to the track, with lines serving as both swift rebukes as well as honest appraisals of opponents: “Do you think that you are hard / Really harder than the other / Man you’re acting cold / If you’re not in charge.”
Even more crucial is the way singer Sandra Nasic’s conviction comes through in her singing. Her voice is easily the band’s defining signature with her gruff vocals conveying an aggressive spirit that isn’t guided by senseless anger or posturing. The passion of “Open Your Eyes” seems to stem from a more righteous place, never boasting but instead entreating others towards freedom. Unfortunately, there was apparently little interest in carrying these themes over to the music video, where Nasic seems more focused on Axel Rose-ing it up in a thoroughly unconvincing hotel set. That aside, while there’s certainly enough to enjoy instrumentally here (the bass-laden bridges, the furious shredding of the central guitar riff), “Open Your Mind’s” apt intellect signaled Guano Apes as a group that, for their time and place, genuinely were “better than the rest.”