LABEL: BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT
Hollywood Undead have always been tough to pin down. In the nine years since the release of their iconic debut Swan Songs, people have struggled to work out just how seriously they take themselves. On one hand, their lyrics are often centred around alcohol and drug-fuelled partying, and tongue-in-cheek misogyny (think Attila, but with a little more Rap and a little less Core), but then at times they try for something genuinely serious. This is something the band have always divided people over, and is perhaps the most prevailing issue with Five.
Hollywood Undead’s fifth album really doesn’t know how seriously to take itself. Half of the tracks attempt maturity, while the other half are a mix of Hollywood Undead’s usual party-anthems, and songs so edgy that, even if they were made with the intent of being fully serious, are laughably silly. At this point, the over-the-top lyrics have lost their gimmicky charm, and have led to an album duller than a Hollywood Undead record has any right to be. The few party songs on the record, tracks like ‘Cashed Out’ and ‘Riot’, just aren’t fun like some of the older tracks like ‘Everywhere I Go’ and ‘Comin’ in Hot’. Instead, these songs sound tired, and almost sad.
The worst offenders however, are the ones where the band try to keep up the illusion of being the outcasts, the no-nonsense rebels that you don’t want to mess with. It worked in 2008 on Swan Songs, but it really doesn’t work now. ‘Whatever It Takes’, one of the album’s singles, is so self-assured in its badass-ery that it would be hilarious, if the song wasn’t so unfortunately bland.
Another stand-out misfire is ‘Broken Record’. It’s a song which attempts to delve into topics of depression, loneliness and inadequacy. While not a particularly bad song, it’s rather ironically been done before by the band, and better. It doesn’t capture the same sardonic brilliance that ‘Bullet’ did back on American Tragedy. It may be unfair to compare the two, but it’s hard not to when ‘Bullet’ says all the same things, and says them better.
That’s not to say that the album is all bad. The songs that focus more on the overarching theme of California (where the band are from), their hometown Los Angeles, and the dark state of the world, are genuinely pretty good. ‘Ghost Beach’ stands out as one of the band’s most heartfelt and moving tracks, and is possibly the strongest on the record. The album also has a few pretty killer riffs, just check out album opener ‘California Dreaming’, ‘Renegade’ and the Shikari-esque intro to ‘Pray’.
Five isn’t awful, but it’s far from being a particularly strong record. Its few hits are outweighed by a series of missteps that leave it floundering. For Hollywood Undead’s die-hard fans, this is going to be another solid addition to their catalogue, but for the rest, it’s probably not going to offer much of anything, outside of one or two enjoyable tracks.
You can listen to the album here:
WORDS: JOSHUA SOUTHERN