By their own admission, [artist id="2137576"]Hollywood Undead[/artist] make music about "girls, drinking and violence." This is quite possibly the most succinct description in the history of the world.
Because their debut album, Swan Songs (which was released last September and has — unbeknownst to pretty much everyone — sold more than 260,000 copies to date) is about nothing but girls, drinking and violence, except for the last song, which seems to be about reincarnation or God or the afterlife or something like that.
It is a fabulously lunkheaded album, one where rap-rock odes to malt liquor collide with angsty,
[artist id="960856"]Linkin-Park[/artist]-lite rages against the status quo (they are outcasts, you see — check the masks). There are songs about "ridin' with gangsters" and "pimpin'," songs about being "horny like the sickness," and (I suppose) serious songs about how they "can't keep going on this way." Sometimes, these lyrics are rapped over crunchy guitars and trilling pseudo-strings. Other times, they're screamed, though the backbeat remains unchanged. The liner notes are packed with spooky photos of the guys in their masks (and ones featuring scantily clad ladies) and close-ups of cigarette-filled ashtrays and crosses. There is also gratuitous use of the Olde English font.
I truly did not believe they still made albums like this.
And that is the most fascinating thing about the Hollywood Undead. It's not the fact that they've become a rather unheralded sensation, or that they command a loyal following of fans (their so-called "Undead Army"). After all, this is music tailor-made for angsty, angry teenagers, self-described outcasts who feel like no one understands them (which is to say, it's music for basically every teenager); if HU weren't successful, something would be wrong with the world. No, what's so amazing about them is the fact that they even made Swan Songs in the first place, because this is music straight out of a time capsule.
Listening to Swan Songs, I am struck by how untouched it is by anything that has happened in rock music over the past decade. It is — to play the part if the lazy music journo — nu nu-metal (or retro rap-rock, if you prefer).Hammered by the rocketing guitars, guttural yowls and rapped missives, it's not difficult to imagine that we are still living in 1999, a time when backward-ball-cap-wearing rock dinosaurs trudged the earth, sold bazillions of records and emerged from giant onstage toilet bowls. I can almost hear the bagpipe solos and the DJ scratches and wait with baited breath for the inevitable rhyming of "Nookie" with "Cookie." Those moments don't come over the course of Swan Songs' 14 tracks, but it's entirely possible they might on Hollywood Undead's next album.
To their credit, none of the guys in HU admit to ever listening to so-called nu-metal acts like [artist id="1239"]Limp Bizkit[/artist] or [artist id="1094"]Korn[/artist] or Linkin Park — or at least they didn't when I sat down with them Tuesday (for the record, they are very nice guys and, without the masks, they are decidedly less-than-threatening; Charlie Scene sort of looks like [artist id="710356"]Death Cab for Cutie's[/artist] Ben Gibbard). They all grew up in and around Hollywood, listening to stuff like N.W.A, and none of them ever attended Ozzfest — which is why they're somewhat mystified by the rap-rock handle they seem to be saddled with. To them, what they make is simply music about the things they see in their everyday life; these things just tend to be girls, drinking and violence.
Of course, to me, it seems they're short-selling themselves. Theirs is a special sort of brilliance: a steadfast commitment to a universally derided genre of music that just might be making a gigantic comeback. There are millions of angry tweens out there, kids who are looking for an outlet and — perhaps most importantly — were roughly 3 years old when acts like Bizkit and Korn were at the height of their powers, which means they don't know any better. And given the recent Bizkit reunion, and the talk of another Woodstock Festival, we could be living in 1999 all over again. Nu nu-metal could be the next big movement. And Hollywood Undead could very well be the standard-bearers.
Whether this is a good thing remains to be seen, which is why I am refraining from judging HU too harshly — it's almost too easy to say they are terrible and I think it would be missing the point. Because they might actually be visionaries. Whether they intended to or not, they have stumbled upon something positively brilliant with their music. Listening to them is like uncorking a vintage bottle of aggro, a dark and supple pinot noir that makes me miss the halcyon days of Fred Durst and that dude from Puddle of Mudd (OK, not really). But it still gets me drunk and makes me wanna break stuff. Retro rage, vinted 1999. Drink up.
Questions? Comments? Hit Me Up At BTTS@MTVStaff.com.