Hollywood Undead

American Tragedy

Written by: TL on 05/05/2011 20:30:24

In all honesty, I may have gone off on a bit of a crusade when I reviewed the last album by Hollywood Undead. Granted, the masked sixtet which is part band, part rap-group may very well be 50% crunk, 50% rap-rock and 100% tasteless, but as much as I raged against their debut "Swan Song", I readily admit that I have since then had an absolute blast rapping (poorly) along to the lines of its outrageous hit single "Everywhere I Go". The paradoxical nature of this relationship between myself and this... 'band'... parallels the paradoxical nature of the band itself. "Swan Songs" was part intolerable, adolescent melancholia - the kind Eminem and Linkin Park have been selling to teenagers for a decade - and part shameless, over-the-top crunk, with a dash of irony that made it infinitely enjoyable to the generation that loves to party hard.

This double-nature baffled critics, who divided into one camp which was utterly abhorred and another which was curiously intrigued, and judging from the reviews featured on the wiki entry for new album "American Tragedy", it's the same story all over again. The question is, which seat perspective do you take? Do you view Hollywood Undead as a Linkin Park type rap-rock band, with serious matters at heart and overblown compositions to back them up? Or do you take them for a cheeky gimmick act, having fun and making satire of the crunk genre via ridiculous lyricism and brazen beats?

Having.. occasionally.. had my nights as a drunken, smart-ass, loudmouth, I must reluctantly admit, that there's more than enough douchebag in me to appreciate the fun of it, when Hollywood Undead take gangsta-rap and crunk to absurd extremes, and while the main representative of this trend here, "Comin' In Hot", will never measure up to "Everywhere I Go", I still predict my requesting it in future binges. Similarly, I find myself bouncing stupidly up and down to the idiotic "Gangsta Sexy" and the attitude-filled "Apologize", which boasts an example of the outfit's quirky ideas when they punctuate the lyrics "We don't apologize, and that's just the way it is - but we can harmonize, even if we sound like shit" with an electronically distorted harmony that does indeed sound intentionally lame.

When scrutinizing the other aspect of this group and their record however, I find it quite the more difficult to discover any redeeming qualities. It doesn't really matter how many electronic effects or vocoded choruses Hollywood Undead glue to their tracks to make them catchy; for when they try to be all serious and sincere, the ham-fisted sentimentality of the music ensures that only people with the emotional and intellectual capacity of an Insane Clown Posse fan, could possibly be impressed. Tracks like "My Town", "I Don't Wanna Die" and "Glory" are all nauseating examples of songs that you can sing along to after first listen, only you will hate yourself for doing so.

After some back and forth between these two styles for the first nine songs, we also get treated to a couple of oddballs towards the end, and in this department, things at their very weirdest. The corny semi-acoustic ballad "Coming Back Down" calls for a massive facepalm alright, but not as much as "Bullet", a disturbingly bouncy song about suicide, or "Levitate", a Cobra Starship-ish dance-song about doing drugs. Numbers like these can most accurately be attributed with the kind of 'Rebecca Black quality', that will ensure strong listener reactions of either love or loathing.

Overall, I guess my experience with Hollywood Undead must inevitably force me to the conclusion, that these guys are ironically at their most appealing, when they intentionally try to be as awful, tasteless and vulgar as possible. These moments, coming almost exclusively in the crunk tracks, can at least be enjoyed as guilty, drunken pleasures, with their irony and extremity being their redeeming factors. What I'm saying is that - and this is in line with a controversial review, of a controversial record, by a controversial band - I, a reviewer for Rockfreaks.net - prefer Hollywood Undead by far when they are crunk rather than rap-rock. Especially so on "American Tragedy", where the sincere songs appear at best as middle-of-the-road filler, and at worst as sappy appeals to the lowest common denominator. In the end, considering that the record is just about a fifty-fifty split of the two, even in my most retarded and generous state of mind, I have to conclude that as an album, "American Tragedy" is only marginally and occasionally enjoyable.

Download: Comin' In Hot, Apologize, Gangsta Sexy, Glory, Tendencies
For The Fans Of: Linkin Park, Eminem, Brokencyde, 3oh!3, Mindless Self Indulgence, Insane Clown Posse, Cobra Starship
Listen: myspace.com/hollywoodundead

Release Date 05.04.2011
Universal Music

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