“I am a sick man … I am a spiteful man,” begins Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel Notes from the Underground. Hollywood Undead’s album Notes from the Underground does not quite begin with these words, but it begins with a tone both sick and spiteful, and carries that tone from first song to last. The morbid, pseudo-psychotic LA-area rapcore collective is back with another album full of the group’s signature schizophrenic combination of superficial suicide-note punk songs and sex-loving party tracks.
I’ll admit it: back in 8th grade, when I was first entering puberty, I listened to Hollywood Undead, back when Swan Songs came out. That album introduced the raunchy roster of mask-wearing infidels who, over the past five years, have systematically destroyed anything that made their music worth listening to, even as an ironic/ignorant Chief-Keef style source of enjoyment. This is a classic case of a group that takes themselves far, far too seriously. Notes from the Underground riffs on the same themes as Hollywood Undead, and indeed much of the rap industry, has before: smoking a lot, drinking a lot, and having a lot of sex (“Up In Smoke”, “We Are”, and the semi-catchy “Pigskin”, respectively). The issue with Hollywood Undead is that one doesn’t even believe them; it’s difficult to imagine that such a self-conscious group of “rappers”, all of whom wear masks and none of whom have any lyrical talent (especially not Charlie Scene, who’s apparently known as being the group’s most notorious, though to be honest I don’t think anyone cares enough to differentiate between the members of the crew), could seduce even the drunkest of women.
There are a few other thematic threads in this album. One is the punk-rock contemplations of death and sorrow which Hollywood Undead did best with “My Black Dahlia” (although that was terrible too). On Notes we have “Believe”, “Outside”, and “Rain”, which I’m going to say has to be the corniest song that will be released in 2013. The other recurring theme is a relatively new subject for Hollywood Undead: violence and homicide. The remaining tracks (most notably “Another Way Out” and the shockingly stupid “Kill Everyone”) literally all concern shooting, stabbing, or beating haters as a true zombie/ghoul/undead nightmare would; the lyrics revisit homicide with a frequency that borders on the psychopathic. The question: who are they attacking? Presumably their haters, but do they have any haters? Surely, anyone who listens to Hollywood Undead will loathe the band’s clinically insane lyrics about cirrhosis and misogyny, its punk-inspired “beats”, and its inane hooks. But does anyone actually listen to this band? No. And thus, they can’t have any haters, realistically.
But Hollywood Undead is not concerned with realism. Here we have Limp Bizkit meets My Chemical Romance meets Odd Future, and it amounts to a group of posers who somehow got a record deal, because there are people out there, people like the one I was in 8th grade, who are as immature as the members of Hollywood Undead are, and so will like their music. Here’s the really awful thing, though: they were better when I was in 8th grade. Songs from the debut album like “No. 5” and “Undead” are at the very least entertainingly stupid, or unfortunately catchy. Notes from the Underground has no such merit; it is not even worth listening to sarcastically. This group of Bay Area punks has earned the honor of producing the worst album I have ever reviewed. Score: 2/10.
Jake Bittle / A&E Editor