[2 August 2006]
I try to be pretty forgiving when it comes to the brand of rock ‘n roll that was hitting the airwaves in the late ‘90s. I mean, these poor bands get saddled with some of the sorriest genre labels this side of “electronica” (“post-grunge”? ouch. “nu/nü metal”? double ouch.); they get near-uniformly ragged on just because they tend to be depressed, like, a lot; and they actually wrote some pretty decent songs that were mostly ignored because those songs weren’t the ones necessarily deemed radio-ready. That is to say, the Stainds, Disturbeds, and even the Puddles of Mudd of the world get a bad rap.
For a while, I’d have included Powerman 5000 in that bunch. I mean, it’s hard to not hurt your neck headbanging to their first radio hit “When Worlds Collide” (from the not-all-that-bad Tonight the Stars Revolt! disc), they have—er, had—a sense of humor, and they had a legitimate smash with “Nobody’s Real”, which went on to get licensed out the wazoo in movies and advertisements. And still, the band was, and is, widely known as “Rob Zombie’s little brother’s band”. Of course, the creepy-cute-factor inherent in a self-chosen name like “Spider” doesn’t help matters, nor does a Rob-like fascination with pulp science fiction. Spider has tried to separate his own identity from big bro’s mostly by being way hotter and, more recently, taking himself much more seriously as an artist. The first is probably a wise move. The second, well…maybe not so much.
Destroy What You Enjoy is the latest album from the 5000, and it continues the transformation evident on 2003’s Transformer (ha), that being one of losing the cyber and adding some punk. The end result is like the unholy spawn of Billy Idol (whose sneer Spider has evidently co-opted) and Alice Cooper singing Green Day songs. Even worse, this combination is just as ugly as it looks in print.
The Green Day parallel is particularly evident when looking at the lyrics of Destroy What You Enjoy. “Return to the City of the Dead” (itself something of a reprise of “City of the Dead” from the Powerman 5000 old stuff compilation The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Vol. 1), “All My Friends are Ghosts”, and even lead single “Wild World” wouldn’t have sounded all that out of place amongst the worst tracks on American Idiot, featuring lyrical themes that center around suburban angst and the pain of seeing sides of things that naïveté mercifully hides. These are the types of songs that point to a band that wants to be taken seriously, but simply never will be, thanks to the inclusion of such testosterone-fueled “punk” songs as “Now That’s Rock and Roll” and “Walking Disaster”, the two of which actually appear back-to-back on this album. “The lights flashing, going off and on / The floor’s hotter than Vietnam…” such couplets are common in “Now That’s Rock and Roll”, and while the point is quite obviously that big, dumb rock is a good thing, the insipid posturing of the song renders its sentiment moot (even with a “this is what Spider sounds like when he’s having sex” break between verses).
One studio track here is worth hearing, and will very likely see a single release in the near future: “Murder”. It starts out in the punkish rock ‘n roll fashion typical to Destroy What You Enjoy, but for the chorus, it busts out the old, reliable bass/open hi-hat dance beat that’s worked so well on the radio for the last couple of years. Original? No. But at least I can bop around to it. A decent live track is included, as well—something called “Heroes and Villains” that doesn’t really aspire to much, but at least thrashes harder than anything spawned in the studio.
By the time the country-fried acoustic mock-ballad “Miss America” (refrain: “You might Miss America when it’s gone”... har har) hits, it’s hard not to feel something like pity. TV is BAD! People are getting FATTER! Shopping malls spawn MINDLESS DRONES! (buy our album!) Destroy What You Enjoy is entirely a pile of noise and bluster so obviously directed toward the maintenance of a predefined image as to be a finger in the throat of all but the Hot Topicked suburban goth wannabes that still find something appealing about this silly little band…yes, the same drones that the band spends so much time railing against. Powerman 5000 has become its own target. Brace yourself for the implosion.