Woo-hey! Welcome to 2013. I've been away for a while, busy working on some personal stuff. But now that I've eaten, drank and partied (as if) the holidays away it's back to business as usual. This is my first review of 2013 and my subject of choice is Hollywood Undead's newest effort; the deceptively titled Notes From the Underground.
Why is it deceptive? It's deceptive because the group has reached such a status that nothing they will ever do from now on can be linked to the seedy underground venues that prides itself on reinventing or conjuring up styles. Their debut album Swan Songs was a fun and happy-go-lucky rap/rock album filled with semi-witty lyrics and boasts. It was all in good fun. The song structures were okay and were entertaining for a listen or two. American Tragedy saw the departure of lead vocalist Deuce (the drama prior to his departure is nothing short of hilarious) and they called on Daniel Murillo to replace him. American Tragedy sounded like a typical sophomore release by a high profile band: Disappointing and devoid of change. It was essentially a Linkin Park record without the skilled songwriting and carefully crafted electronics and lyrics. And now loudmouth Charlie Scene and his group of rag-tag miscreants are back to shake up venues near you, whether you like it or not.
'Dead Bite', the album opener, immediately shows what you're in for the coming hour. Charlie Scene boasts away about how hard he is, how cool he is and how futile an attempt it would be were you to try taking him on. And all this set to nursery rhymes and good ol' Rock 'n Roll clichés. 'From the Ground' doesn't really seems to know what it wants to be. Does it want to be dubstep? Punk? Rap? Metal? A pop ballad? It's all of these things, all at once. And as a result it feels unstructured, overly chaotic and not well thought out. And just when you thought you couldn't get more confused, you get hit in the face by 'Another Way Out' a complex/rock hybrid that sounds incredibly forced. By now they've shown that they can confuse the most loyal of fans with their misplaced genre dynamics. 'Lion' starts off with some of the corniest lyrics you'll ever hear (it stays like that for the duration of the track if I were to be completely honest) but turns into a catchy and interesting track, albeit only musically. We Are is a pretty (surprisingly) decent track with nice use of vocals and rhythm. The lead guitar has a great sound to it and the drums sound big and punchy. The producer seems to have missed a few spots where autotune was sorely needed. A dissonant harmony here and there won't bother most people, but if you listen to music as much as I do it sounds like nails on a school board. Ouch.
'Pigskin' utilizes elements from the EDM du jour that's been sweeping the nation and has filled dance floors with middle-class white kids: Trap. Boast upon boast are thrown at you with high velocity, peaking in the first 30 seconds with this lyrical gem: “Girl I wanna wear you out/like some nikes.” Quite. And thanks to that track I was wholly unprepared for what came next: The well-written and beautiful Hip-Hop ballad 'Rain'. This track sees the band calming down a bit to lay some heartfelt truths on you. And this track is one of the few on this deformed excuse for an album that actually sounds like it's worth your money. The hooks are interesting, the lyrics are semi-poetic and it's musically diverse. Too bad the next track, 'Kill Everyone', instantly makes you forget that these guys are able to make music by opening with the cringe worthy You've Got The Right to Remain Motherfucking Violent before jumping into a track that can best be described as Rage Against the Machine after all the original members have been replaced by imposters.
And this is where I'll stop telling you about the individual tracks. I'll be honest with you all. I feel like I need to add this: I LIKE this band. I really enjoyed their first two CDs (the first one more than the second) and as such I want these guys to succeed. But every line, every riff and every drum hit sounds insincere and uninspired. The lyrics alone are cringe worthy and prepubescent to the extreme. Its one cliché after the other, fired at you at a higher speed than you can digest them. It doesn't sit well with me that the band seems to have lost all sense of direction and they instead decided on releasing 15 experimental tracks that span a wide range of genres, from punk rock to Jason Derulo-esque RnB songs that can only appeal to teenage girls. The mix on most of the tracks sounds awful. The midrange is just a mess. Sometimes it's hard to tell apart the different layers and often times it sounds like they released an album that wasn't finished. At all. The only thing that saves this album from being completely forgettable is the album closer New Day. It's not an amazing track by any stretch of the imagination, but it's musically sound. When you strip away the rapping (oh god. The RAPPING) and listen to the chorus, it's actually a very decent track. But apart from this track and maybe two others this album is nothing short of horrible. Happy 2013.