System Of A Down makes the right noises a lot of the time; the angst is present and correct, the riffs are usually solid and well constructed, and the occasional melody creates a level of emotional affect. However, and with little in the way of exception, I can’t escape the feeling that it’s all too contrived, too cynical.
As much as I love the idea of only being into cool music that pushes the envelope and stuff, I have to admit that I’m about as big a fan of the big rock ballad as you can find, and even then, I can’t buy into the likes of ‘Lost in Hollywood’.
It’s just so hollow. Why am I listening to a California nu-Metal band deriding sunny Cali culture? To be quite honest, I would rather listen go the very ‘maggots smoking fags on Sunset Boulevard’ than this self-important exercise in Metal box ticking.
Freakout, anything-goes, Metal band Mr. Bungle are no more, and that has been the case for a few years now. There is definitely a void where once they stood, but System Of A Down lack the imagination, the instrumental proficiency and the simple ‘we don’t care’ attitude to fill it. Doesn’t stop them from trying, though.
So we get explosions of wackiness. I hate wackiness. I hate those stupid faces Jim Carrey would pull in his idiotic mid-90s films, I hate those people who sit on the floor, at the front of gigs, simply because it’s kooky’ to do so. I especially hate wackiness in Metal. Really, if you are going to plough your furrow in such a straight-faced, angsty genre, then either embrace the ridiculousness of it (like sunnO)))), or play it straight.
What we have here is a band that, not content with producing some Metal version of Timmy Mallet, has deigned to release two albums of it in one calendar year. This is the better of the two.
Much like when Guns n’ Roses before them tried this trick, neither on its own is a particularly good album. It would be a stretch to even say their being merged would make one good album. These are two half-arsed albums that combine to form… well, a pile of arse. What’s worse is the presence of a couple of legitimately very good songs, to really shine a light on the mediocrity elsewhere.
‘BYOB’ is a good song, but I think part of my positive affect for it might be down to the context in which I first heard it. They popped up on some MTV award show and, as such, were a pleasant surprise. While the riffs were warmed over 1986 Metallica, the riffs were there, on my telly, when they could easily have been The Kooks or some crap.
So, I associate the song with that happy surprise, and its competent structure, crunchy guitar and superficial satire (‘Everybody’s going to the party have a real good time / Dancing in the desert blowing up the sunshine’ – cute, but only in the context of Stuff You See On MTV) are nothing special on their own.
‘Violent Pornography’ is more like it, with less of a reliance on ‘ooh, aren’t we crazy’ dynamics and more of a celebratorily derisive chorus (‘Choking chicks and sodomy / The kinda shit you get on your TV’). The riff swings with as much swagger as the band can bring and, for four minutes, all is right with major label Metal.
Overall, though, it is a case of too little, spread too thin. And when this is the band looked at as The Next Metallica or whatever, you know something’s up. And the guitarist sings too much. He is nasal and whiny, and they should just multi-track vocalist Serj Tankian, who really is the silver lining to this band.