Mushroomhead’s album XX is another chapter in the book of new metal. Along with Slipknot, they are beginning to destroy the cliché that the Midwest is full of suntanned farmers and conservative, bible-thumping politics and to replace it with a new image: the Midwest is decidedly violent and darkly fucked up. Mushroomhead are very much a Slipknot clone, from their twisted masks and violent imagery, to their equal ineptness with both classic instruments (guitar and drums etc.) and newer additions to rock music (turntables and sampling machines). Their music is straight-ahead angry metal. Evidently someone poured pig’s blood on these guys’ heads at the prom, because they are mighty pissed at the world.
While some of this anger seems to stem from innocent suburban dramas (or maybe not so innocent in light of recent events), most of the band’s lyrics are pretty much incoherent drivel. Take this beautiful poetry from the song “Wrist”: “Diminishing senses / Defenseless crippled libido / Greedo died by The hand of Solo”. The Star Wars reference notwithstanding, this lyric is telling the listener about . . . well about a crippled libido evidently. And, unfortunately for this listener, I stopped caring about this obviously testosterone-charged band’s “crippled libido” about six songs beforehand.
This isn’t the work of a garage band with some talent who might not have quite nailed it yet, but it is the work of a band that obviously wants to steal some of the disaffected kids who may be caught in limbo after Slipknot’s mainstream record release. Also, someone should probably let the guys know that just because Star Wars references are cute and nostalgic in Kevin Smith movies, that doesn’t mean throwing them into a random song will evoke those same feelings. Not only do these guys rip off Slipknot’s look, it also appears that they are ripping off Smashing Pumpkins’ lyrics also. The first lyrics from “Solitaire/Unraveling” are: “Locked away in a cage / My rage got the best of me”. Well it looks like these guys didn’t have enough talent to figure out a way to throw rat imagery in there either. The problem with these lyrics isn’t only that they are incoherent and somewhat clichéd, it’s that at the very least, they aren’t even heartfelt. The vocalist doesn’t even seem to believe himself.
The music itself is noisy and somewhat irritating. A lot of it is irritating because the listener feels as though he/she has heard it before. The reason for this is that you have heard a lot of these licks before. It’s basic riff-rock with some turntables and funky bass lines thrown in. The musicians in this band may have some talent, but they are not creative, and there is no greater sin when it comes to rock music than a lack of creativity.
There is one song that deserves a fair chance on this album. The rocking “Bwomp” is a rallying cry from an album that badly needs as many troops as possible. The singing/rapping on this song is perfect, and the lyrics for once make sense. Instead of playing up Columbine as some sort of revolutionary act, these musicians manage to promote the idea that kids shouldn’t be killing kids, regardless of any perceived sins. The last line of the song, “If it were up to me I’d free Charlie Manson”, is a cynical testament to the world the Love Generation created. After convicting Manson, the same generation made him an icon of our times, a generational touchstone to the foibles of the past and the cynicism of the future.
I’m sure Mushroomhead can and will go far. There is a nation of disaffected teenagers out there looking for the next Nirvana and settling for the next Guns N’ Roses. This doesn’t mean, however, that they are great, seminal or even very good. They are a mediocre metal band in a mediocre arena of music. XX is a testament to the ability of any band to sell some records as long as they dress up and act like a vaudeville show on acid. Kiss and Gwar have done it for years.