No one has ever quite been able to accurately explain to me what exactly Hollywood Undead is, what audience they’re shooting for, or what their message is. That’s not to say that these are rhetorical questions directed at the powers-that-be running the multiverse, but I’ve never been confronted with the answer. Are they just a rap rock band out of their decade? Are they self-effacing in some subtle way? I’m a man who loathes genre-fication, but I admit I’ve never been sure who this appeals to.
So, as the re-imagining of “American Tragedy,” (cleverly) titled “American Tragedy Redux” slid across my desk, it was warmly greeted with a crooked eyebrow and immediate suspicion. Since Hollywood Undead remain largely unexplained to me, I could only envision what on earth this would sound like through the lens of other musicians.
Well, as you might expect, it’s a mixed bag to say the least. What makes “Redux” so curious is that each remix carries on its wings the lingering affect of the musician doing the remixing, as opposed to just a bunch of faceless stylistic designs.
To posit an example, “My Town” is put back to wax by Andrew W.K, who’s far from his new home hosting “Destroy Build Destroy” on Cartoon Network (not to be confused with Tennessee metal band Destroy Destroy Destroy.) The new cut seems like a sample of Andrew’s iconic (okay, some will debate that word, but I’ve met him once or twice and he’s a cool guy so bear with me,) commercialized album “I Get Wet” layered with a rap song that doesn’t quite pass the toothpick test.
Jonathan Davis pulls the strings on “Hear Me Now,” and the cut positively oozes with the kind of near-industrial leanings that characterized Korn’s music (and stage show) in the late nineties and early aughts. The stop-and-go guitar mixing with the bitten off lyrics makes the song sound like a not-quite cut from “Follow the Leader.”
KMFDM’s remix of “Been to Hell…And Back!” is predictably KMFDM, and I actually mean that as a compliment. There are heavy guitar licks, an over the top gang chorus, and a general infusion of that rare block party/state riot attitude that populates so much of KMFDM’s best work.
Most of the truly memorable moments on “American Tragedy Redux” come from the imagination of the DJ’s not normally or frequently associated with heavy metal. Borgore’s cut of “I Don’t Wanna Die” grates with truly visceral industrial noise, which creates a whole new something out of nothing. The gentle opening verse and swaying electronic beat give way to a genuinely shattering, jarring composition of industrial warfare. As a listener, it’s like standing in the middle of a demonically possessed assembly line. These kids would probably love it. While not readily listenable (or ready for primetime at your upcoming holiday party,) the track is the album’s most innovative and provocative.
Couple that with The Juggernaut vs. Obsidian’s imagining of “Lights Out” and you have an album of cuts that is tailor made for an electronic musical recital where everyone brings glow sticks and heads home after two days smelling suspiciously of cloves (to say the least.) If those songs existed in a vacuum, “American Tragedy Redux” would be, at the very least, a curious exploration.
However, I must point out “Comin’ in Hot.” I’ll admit that I’m not 100% sure who the “Wideboys” even are (these kids today and their hippity-hop!) but the number of times their mix of this song mentions “Jager bombs” is frankly intolerable. Follow that up with countless shout-outs to Patron and a general sense of douchebaggery (not a word,) and you are left with an infuriating piece of music that should be used to test the discipline of those guards that stand outside of Buckingham Palace.
It is also worth nothing that the more times I hear this album in preparation of this review, the more it annoys me. Take that for what you will.
So, while Hollywood Undead continues to confound me (are they wanna be juggalos? A second coming of Limp Bizkit? A dance rock band? Up is down, black is white!) “American Tragedy Redux” has, to its credit, some legit interesting moments. No lie, not a typo. If you’re prepared to take on some challenging music styles outside your normal penumbra, than this album is at least worth one spin as an academic pursuit. On the other hand, it gets more irritating as you hear it more and more (just ask my wife…oh yeah, I got married, by the way…) and there are cuts that will make you feel like you’re subject to a carnivorous earwig. So there’s that.