Review Summary: $150,000 well spent, indeed.
It's no mistake that Mindless Self Indulgence's career has been a rollercoaster of greatness mixed with mediocrity. They exploded onto the underground scene with 'Tight' in 1999, their eccentric, ADHD inducing and spastic nature proved unmatched then and today. One year later was their sophomore album, the whopping 30-track 'Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy'. It offered more of the same, but better production and crazier instrumentals proved the record to be a success. After a few demos and live shows in the following years, the band was silent. It was five years later that their third album, 'You'll Rebel to Anything' launched the band to mainstream with the songs 'Shut Me Up' and 'Straight to Video'. With a new bassist, and a slight departure of their past ways, the album sounded notably different. Many fans still enjoyed their work, while others lost some faith. This is when things started going downhill. Three years later, the infamous (among fans) album 'If' dropped, and it attracted scene girls all over the nation. It was more mature than their previous work, while at the same time being incredibly immature, and not in the humorous way. The fanbase went under a massive change, and as for the music itself, it didn't fare too well. It seemed washed-up and bland, as if they were trying to be something they were not.
Last year, in late October, the band took advantage of the site Kickstarter, which helps aspiring artists of any kind to get a helping hand in the form of money. People who find another's idea to be interesting can fund their project by donating a certain amount of money. An amusing video featured none other than Jimmy himself, stating that if the fans of MSI wanted a new album, they'd have to "Pay for it, mother***ers!". The band set up a Kickstarter page, their goal being $150,000, with various incentives and prizes for each specific amount of money pledged. If the goal wasn't fully met, the album would cease to be. There was a mixed reaction among fans, some claiming them to be greedy and money-hungry, while others fought back with the fact that you only had to pay a dollar to receive the album. Obviously, the goal was met and then some. So, the question that plagues most MSI fans' minds remains....Is it any good?
Well, I'm here to give my own humble opinion. While enjoyable, this record suffers some relatively minor flaws.
Steve's guitar is barely noticeable this time around, with the only notable guitar work being in the tracks 'Witness' and 'It Gets Worse'. Lyn-Z's bass, as always, is under-pronounced and barely worth mentioning. Kitty's drumming is..well, actually an improvement. She still isn't anything stellar, but her fills are still simple and enjoyable, and she actually utilizes something other than the snare drum. Jimmy is in top form this time around. His vocals on 'If' could prove to be irritating at times, but here he learns from his mistakes and stops fluctuating his voice to try and sound deep. (The song 'Evening Wear' was notorious for this.) He still isn't as hyper as his old days, but then again, the man is over forty at this point. One thing I noticed was that there was a distinct lack of his trademark falsetto in the album. This isn't a bad thing by any means, but it just sounds so odd to hear the man actually sing at times.
Another thing worth mentioning is the track listing. And by this, I mean that the second half of the album is much, much better than the first. Songs like 'You're No Fun Anymore Mark Trezona' and 'Ala Mode', which both come right after one another, sound very similar at times. Now, this doesn't mean these songs are bad, in fact, Ala Mode is a great track. Its lyrics are pretty stupid at times, but I can get over that. With that being said, the first half has its moments. 'I Want to Be Black' gives us a humorous insight on how Jimmy is fed up with his race and wishes to be black. (obviously). With fast paced beats and Jimmy's hyper vocals, as well as amusing lyrics such as:
"From the palest gray, to the darkest day
From the whitest light, to the blackest night
I wanna be like Malcolm X, I wanna be black, I really mean it
I wanna be black like M.L.K., I wanna be black like Morgan Freeman
Set me free!"
...the track proves to be a success. The following song, 'Hey Tomorrow *** You and Your Friends Yesterday' is something quite different actually. It's fast paced as Jimmy tells a story about how he's gotten old and misses his younger days, reminiscing about getting drunk, among other things. Its somber lyrics are met with an incredibly contrasting happy tone and delivery, which I find entertaining. Its very catchy and fun.
However, some songs fall flat. '*** Machine' is a mediocre song about having sex and telling a girl that 'we can make a *** machine.' It's repetitive and forgettable. 'Witness', while good, just doesn't sit with me very well. Jimmy's vocals can be grating at times, especially in the chorus. A song later in the album, 'Stalkers (Slit My Wrists)' is also quite different, but not in a good way. It's not bad, but it's just underwhelming in many ways, and a bit forgettable as well.
With every mediocre song, there's also great songs. As I mentioned earlier, I find the second half of the album to be much better than the first. 'Casio' has Jimmy singing about his keyboard, along with telling a girl to pull down her pantyhose. I don't get it either. His vocals are particularly impressive on this track, as he screams throughout the verses, and lets out an enormous one in the chorus. The following track, 'Anonymous', is by far my favorite song off of the album. It's very reminiscent of MSI's earlier days, and really, really catchy. Not to mention its subject matter is particularly interesting. (4Chan.) 'Kill You All in a Hip Hop Rage' talks about the decline of the rap industry, and that if dead artists such as Tupac, Eazy-E, Biggie Smalls and ODB were alive today, they would kill all of the mediocre rappers nowadays in a hip hop rage. Naturally, Jimmy raps throughout the verses.
Actually, I'd like to take this as an opportunity to address the lyrics of this album. I know it sounds silly to actually dissect the lyrics of a Mindless Self Indulgence album, but since they take themselves at least somewhat seriously at this point, I feel okay in doing so. Topics range from sex, wanting to be black, how ice cream can save your life, and other things. They're varied, but not always great. But his songwriting does have its shining moments. 'It Gets Worse' is a wake up call about the harsh reality of life to all of the people who think they can get through it and not have any problems. It's narcissistic and cruel, but true in many ways.
"It doesn't get better unless you're pretty,
It doesn't get better unless you got money
It doesn't get better, so listen the *** up
It never gets better, no, it gets worse
You're gonna die alone!"
With that aside, I'll get to the rest of the album. 'Jack You Up' is a strange metaphor about 'playing God' while taking advantage of a woman. The verse has a strange groove that I can't really explain. I like it, and it's definitely headbop-worthy. The final track, 'Ass Backwards' is definitely deserving of the title. Of being last I mean, not the actual..yeah you get it. It presents us with the voice of a woman supposedly reading a story to children, and of course, the said story is the song. It's amusing and strange, and I particularly like the synths in the song.
If there is something I can't be a critic about, it's Jimmy's composition abilities. This guy can drop a nice beat, and this album showcases exactly what he can do. While not as crazy and over-the-top as previous work, the music is much better than on If. It's definitely the most varied composition-wise of their career, and that's a welcome change.
Overall, this is a fine addition to Mindless' discography, and I definitely recommend it to any existing fan. It has its weak spots, but with many great songs and well performed vocals and instrumentals, 'How I Learned to Stop Giving a *** and Love Mindless Self Indulgence' is an enjoyable album.