[5th January 2013]
[Universal Music Group]
01. Dead Bite
02. From the Ground
03. Another Way Out
05. We Are
08. Kill Everyone
10. Up in Smoke
13. One More Bottle
Hollywood Undead have been around for a few years now, since debuting in 2008 with their album Swan Song and the single “Undead,” which was everywhere on rock radio when it came out. That song was the only thing I’d ever heard from the band, so imagine my surprise to learn not only did the band release a second album, American Tragedy, in 2011, but also a third album, Notes From the Underground, last week. Having only heard “Undead,” and being a curious sort of fellow, I decided to give Notes From the Underground a listen and see what the band is made of.
The first realization is that Notes From the Underground is a surprising album. The genre “rap-rock” brings to mind images and sounds of Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit, and considering the latter’s comeback album Gold Cobra came out two years ago, it seemed conceivable that Notes From the Underground would be similar in tone.
This assumption turned out to be false, as Hollywood Undead share more common ground with One Direction, The Wanted, and (for our older readers) N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys. Shocking as it may be to hear, Hollywood Undead is nothing but a boy band, albeit a boy band unafraid of saying things like “fuck,” “suck my dick,” and “let’s get fucked up.” They even have specific roles: the singer, the screamer, and the rapper, although sometimes the rapper will rap the singer’s part or vice versa, just to change it up.
The album sticks to a formula tried and true: create an album full of potential singles that will appeal to various demographics, most of which can all be found in high school. Pissed off that someone dissed your new Chuck Taylors? Blast “Kill Everyone” from your mom’s van. Sad that Shirley didn’t accept your invite to the prom, and worried that no one will ever understand you? Sit alone in your room and cry to “Rain” or “Believe. Want to get stoned and drunk while listening to songs about getting stoned and drunk? Throw on “Up in Smoke” or “One More Bottle,” and let the good times roll. Are sexualized football metaphors your thing? Thank God for “Pigskin.”
Notes From the Underground has a song for all of these emotions, except the one thing they lack is any sort of catharsis or believbility. “Kill Everyone” doesn’t come close to expressing the venom present in Anaal Nathrakh or Dragged Into Sunlight, any sadness found in “Rain” and “Believe” is evaporated by the lyrics of every other song on the album, “Up in Smoke” and “One More Bottle” make smoking pot and drinking whiskey seem like the most tedious, dull activities ever, and “Pigskin” makes an NFL season comprised of nothing but Browns-Jaguars games seem enticing. This may seem a bit harsh, but there are no songs on Notes From the Underground that feel like they were written for any reason other than to become singles. It’s as though the band sat down with their label and went over a checklist: “Party/club single? Check. Angry/MMA entry music single? Check. Emotional/sad-handjob-in-the-backseat single? Check.”
Notes From the Underground is a lazy, hackneyed album by a band clearly in it for the money. Over-earnest pleas for love and understanding alternate with half-assed rapping about roofies, murder, and getting fucked up. It’s a pop album that features over-produced distorted guitar samples instead of over-produced keyboard samples, and possibly the saddest part about it is that it’s such a complete “boy band album” even though it’s made by a group of guys who would all probably insist they’re too cool for boy band albums.
Despite these criticisms, the album isn’t all bad; there’s a guitar riff on the album’s second track “From the Ground” that’s pretty great, but unfortunately the band uses it three times in the song and then pitch all musical talent out the window for the remainder of the album. The possibility exists that Hollywood Undead are a joke; a group of guys getting together to make the stupidest, laziest music they can, and in the process selling millions of albums and gaining legions of fans. If that’s the case, then kudos to them on milking the music industry for everything they can. If that’s not the case, then shame on them for peddling this tripe, making records just because they can and it’s easier than getting a real job. Nothing about Notes From the Underground justifies its existence, even though it will probably sell millions of copies over the next year or so. There’s a line on “Medicine” that goes “even when I hate it, I still wanna like it.” Discerning listeners should have no such trouble with Notes From the Underground; it does absolutely nothing to make you want to like it.