Combichrist: Making Monsters

RIYH (Recommended If You Hate): Your history teacher, riding the bus to school, cleaning your room

Combichrist are angry! And mean! And scary! And other stuff that will hopefully scare parents and encourage misguided 14-year-olds who want to rebel by going to Hot Topic to buy their records.

The creation of Norwegian musician Andy LaPlegua, Combichrist has been around since 2003. Previous uplifting and inspirational efforts by LaPlegua and crew include The Joy of Gunz, Everybody Hates You and What The Fuck Is Wrong with You People?

Their sound could be be described as “Head Like a Hole” meets “Beautiful People” meets the entire hard house dance movement. Aggressive beats meets aggressive lyrics meets aggressive synths. It’s all just so…aggressive. So much so some call the genre of music aggrotech. But don’t do that – you don’t want to encourage that kind of rampant portmanteauing. If you’re over 20 and take this stuff seriously,then a) you’ll love this record, and b) there’s no helping you. If you find needlessly misanthropic song titles like “Throat Full of Glass” and “Through These Eyes of Pain” hysterical and want to know just how many times LaPlegua can call the object of his affection a slut on “Fuckmachine,” then you might find some humor in Making Monsters, and the music, while a little overbearing at times, is good in a “I need help to stay awake/hate humanity” kind of way.

Just give your mom a hug, or pet some kittens, after listening. (Metropolis Records 2010)

Combichrist MySpace Page


Linkin Park: A Thousand Suns

RIYL: Nine Inch Nails, Guster, growing up

First, a mea culpa to Chester Bennington.

In our review of Linkin Park’s 2007 album Minutes to Midnight, we (and by ‘we,’ we mean I) accused Bennington of wearing his sadness like a cheap suit in order to remain faithful to the band’s lyrical core, and therefore make gobs more money. This was based on two things: first, the lyrics, where Bennington sings about how miserable he was. Second, Chester’s notes in the credits, where he thanked his wife (“a.k.a. The Hotness”) and his four kids. Which produced the following thought: this married father of four is whining about how he wants to die? Oh, fuck this guy.

Should have hit Wikipedia. Bennington divorced his first wife in 2005, and married The Hotness a couple years later. He has one child with each wife; the other two are The Hotness’ from a previous relationship. So it turns out that he is indeed happily married, and presumably singing about his ex-wife, not his current one. My bad.

Having said that, Minutes to Midnight was still not a great record, though it did have its moments. They were clearly trying to add stronger melodies into the music, but most of the time, they either went too far or not far enough. The band goes a long way to rectifying this problem, along with a couple of others, on A Thousand Suns, their latest. Musically, it’s their most melodic album yet, and lyrically, it’s their most contrite, which is good, because if they spent this album still complaining about some girl or another, it would have been embarrassing. Sonically, this is their most mature album (the piano was a welcome addition), but it still maintains their glitchy roots. “Robot Boy” is not tailor-made hit single material, but it might be the band’s best song, as Bennington layers vocals – actual honest-to-goodness vocals – over a simple but effective minor-to-major chord progression, and “Burning in the Skies” appears to be Bennington taking responsibility for his failed marriage. “I’m swimming in the smoke, of bridges I have burned / So don’t apologize, I’m losing what I don’t deserve.”

The most curious song is “Blackout,” which sports a borderline bubblegum pop melody with Bennington screaming his head off for the first two verses, at which point Mike Shinoda takes over and sends the song into a furious scratch and sample-driven breakdown. From there, Bennington gives the music the pop vocal it deserves. It ultimately serves as a standalone bridge between the band’s past and their present, as does “When They Come for Me,” which begins as a jungle drum-heavy showcase for Shinoda, only for the band to slip in a killer pop hook within the chaos. “Iridescent” is as big a lighter-waving anthem as the band’s ever done, and “The Catalyst” is simply huge. Several interludes fill in the cracks (lyrical callbacks and foreshadows abound), though one stands above the others: “Wisdom, Justice and Love,” where the band takes a vocal sample from Martin Luther King Jr. and slowly morphs his voice into robotic menace.

Growing up is never easy, especially when you’ve made a career out of articulating every confused thought in your head. But every band gets happy at some point if they stick around long enough, and Linkin Park finally does it here. It may have taken a decade to do it, but strangely it doesn’t seem like it took too long. If anything, it’s impressive to see a band who defined themselves with all things adolescence (angst, profanity, hip hop, hardcore) find a way to maintain those elements in their sound, yet grow beyond them at the same time. Fans of the Hybrid Theory-era Linkin Park will probably hate A Thousand Suns, of course, but that happens to every band, too. They might lose more fans than they gain in the short run with this one, but there isn’t any question which of the two albums will have a longer shelf life. (Warner Bros. 2010)

Linkin Park MySpace page
Click to buy A Thousand Suns from Amazon


Fucked Up: Couple Tracks: Singles 2002-2009

RIYL: Pissed Jeans, Minor Threat, FEAR

Fucked Up’s The Chemistry of Common Life was the best album of the decade (if you ask me). The downside to releasing an album that good, of course, is that now they have some pretty high standards to live up to. Couple Tracks is actually composed entirely of material that pre-dates that masterpiece, culling from the band’s extensive 7” singles discography, most of which were never released digitally or even on CD. While it may be unfair to compare this earlier material to what came later, it’s impossible not to.

Luckily most of Couple Tracks comes close to living up to the high standards set forth by the band’s later work. “Triumph of Life” and “Black Hats” both hint at the wall of noise sound that was to come on The Chemistry of Common Life, and pulse-pounding, ready-made moshers like “Ban Violins” and “Dangerous Fumes” show that before Fucked Up was tearing down the boundaries of what it meant to be a hardcore band, they were working within the confines of the genre damn well. The band even lets their artistic and avant-garde guard down with a series of covers, which include “Anorak City” (originally by Another Sunny Day) and “I Don’t Want to Be Friends with You” (originally by the Shop Assistants). It’s silly, for sure, but it shows the rarely seen lighter side of Fucked Up, as they transform both songs into Ramones-style punk numbers. Also showing off the band’s sense of humor is “Generation,” which is a purposely stupid anthem song meant to rally the easily led.

Unfortunately there is a bit of filler on here. Early versions of album cuts “Crooked Head” and “No Epiphany” seem like pointless additions, and the live tracks from a Daytrotter session are fun, but more vinyl-only rarities would have been preferred. Still, if you’re a hardcore fan of the band but missed out the singles the first time around (or you just don’t have the turntable to play them), then this collection is pretty much essential. If you’re new to the band and only know The Chemistry Of Common Life the more straightforward sound of Couple Tracks might surprise you, but you’ll still find something to like. (Matador 2010)

Fucked Up MySpace Page


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