Rap-rock revivalists fail to spark with any originality on their second album.
Alistair Lawrence 2011-04-01
Hollywood Undead are a band out of time. Touted as rap-rock revivalists, the LA outfit are actually more like nu-metal apologists. Four near-identikit speak-singing vocalists fed through a vocoder is the only indicator of them borrowing from a more modern hip hop influence. Meanwhile, the guitars are squashed flat and pushed into the margins until they’re just lumpen, repetitive riffs that sound as overcooked and reheated as everything that surrounds them.
American Tragedy is Hollywood Undead’s sophomore effort and seems, more than anything else, contrived to take strides to mainstream acceptance. The result is that they’ve ditched some of the early, growling quirkiness that at least gave them an initial, oddball appeal. Now there’s just the depressing realisation that, in an effort to mature and develop, a band who sport garish ice hockey masks aren’t hiding much.
Such is their wheezing pace it even takes two tracks for the pre-emptive strike to arrive. "We don’t apologise and that’s just the way it is / But we can harmonise, even if it sounds like s***" is the first hook that jumps out of Apologize, and the only time they really sound like themselves. My Town sounds like the most sentimental slice of nothingness... until I Don't Wanna Die immediately follows it. Hear Me Now borrows its opening from Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise before loping back into more eardrum-shrivelling self-pity. If it was any whinier only dogs could hear it, and any human intercepting the signal would feel duty-bound to contact the RSPCA.
Perhaps Hollywood Undead’s popularity comes from giving a voice to the disempowered. As a result, any attempt to criticise them might come across as snobbish. However, stack them against their peers – take your pick from Kid Rock, Slipknot, Insane Clown Posse and Limp Bizkit – and what becomes apparent is that, unlike them, Hollywood Undead are content to deliver clichés – more out of a lack of imagination than cynical opportunism, but it still smacks of both. That’s why to seasoned ears or any genre fan requiring more than more of the same, they’re very, very boring.