[18 June 2012]
This album isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but then, My Darkest Days don’t really do “imagination.” Their second album Sick and Twisted Affair is nine workhorse rock songs designed to fill out their setlist, get some Active Rock radio play, and make dudes at strip clubs feel like they’re having a wild, wild night. MDD’s hook, the thing that sets them apart from similarly industrious Canadian rasp-rock bands Theory of a Deadman and mentors Nickelback, is their embrace of electronic and R&B music. It’s a tentative no-homo embrace, sure, but MDD dabble in textures you might find on darkwave label Metropolis—sinister keyboards and programmed beats against thick walls of guitar, occasionally sounding sort of like the Birthday Massacre. Also they cover Joe’s “Stutter”.
OK, maybe that took some imagination, to hear Real Rock in a turn-of-the-millennium R&B hit. MDD pull it off in the same way ‘60s garage punks did their R&B covers: by blasting any musical subtlety out of the song. Joe’s original was all stutter, with the beat and Joe and special guest Mystikal caroming off one another, spinning a tangled web of paranoid hypocrisy. MDD just play the song. It’s got a backbeat; they can’t lose it. Scratchy-voiced Matt Walst stutters like he’s reading the stutters off notebook paper. There’s not even a guitar solo, the rock equivalent of a Mystikal verse. These guys are so meat-and-potatoes they sometimes skip the potatoes.
MDD are nothing if not consistent; they refuse to ferret any musical interest out of their own songs, either. There’s nothing sick or twisted about Sick and Twisted Affair, which manages to make wild sex sound about as wild as carrying seven-dollar beers back from the concession stand. Lead single “Casual Sex” dreams the dream of all those recent friend-with-benefits romantic comedies—“She says she’s cool with it, she’s down with it / There’s nothing wrong with it, ‘cause it’s easier this way.” Which is fine, sexual wish-fulfillment being one of the things rock songs are good at, but there’s nothing sexy or hardcore about the song itself. Not even a guitar solo! Budding guitar hero Sal Costa gets in some screeching over the final chorus, but the break is just a riff with turntable scratching; you forget it’s there. The video at least throws in some furry imagery.
These guys don’t always suck; usually their not-sucking occurs in their rhythms. “Save Yourself” kicks in with a majestic rapid-fire band riff, and “Again”, probably their best song, jerks around like a slowed-down “My Sharona”—AND IT’S GOT A GUITAR SOLO. (Nothing world-changing, but it’s nice to hear.) “Porn Star Dancing”, the big single from their last album, still gets radio play for good reason: it’s a dark head-nodding jam, sort of the rock precursor to Tyga’s “Rack City”. MDD should groove more often. Not only would they stick out from the rock radio morass, they’d get more people laid.
Right now they come across more as advice columnists. “Love Crime” cautions against dating a heartbreaker; “Perfect” cautions against dating above one’s station; “Nature of the Beast” coaxes orgasms like a motivational speaker. Most of the songs work grungy variations on Nickel-backbeats. There’s a ballad. I’m sure My Darkest Days tour the seediest underbellies of society guided only by loins and id, but their music sounds like sandpaper—and not the sexy kind!