Review Summary: I don't believe in miracles, but I believe in you.
Call me a curmudgeon, scrooge, or even a fascist, but there aren't a lot of albums out there I truly consider "fun." Or at least not in a way that doesn’t force the critic in me to step aside for a moment. It's just not the way I generally approach music. That critic in me, full of unforgiving standards and cold, calculated scrutiny takes over when I press play, and he doesn’t easily drop the iron facade. Yet that’s not to say I don’t enjoy music; I wouldn’t write about it if I didn’t. I just personally don’t equate enjoying music to finding it “fun” because to me “fun” intrinsically implies a level of delight impervious to exterior feelings; it’s uncompromising ecstasy by definition. Yet all of this is simply to say that when I actually do find a record delightfully fun, and one that holds up under critical inspection, it’s something special.
He is Legend’s debut post-hardcore masterpiece I Am Hollywood
is a record that remains, from beginning to end, tremendously entertaining, and even after ten years. Creative in the most refreshing sense, the album radiates talent during the course of its ten tracks with each member shining in equal portions. “The Walls have Teeth” fades in with a leading bass melody, providing the foundation for the entire song, and “Dinner with a Gypsy” flows as almost one continuous guitar solo, paying tribute to both the jazz and psychedelic eras. Truly, during the entire course of I Am Hollywood
, the bass and guitar riffs are dynamic and catchy, the drum work imaginative and varied, and frontman Schuylar Croom’s vocals tirelessly ricochet between multi-octave spanning screams to some of the best cleans in the scene. It’s really quite astounding to find a record exhibiting so much color. To further iterate just how vibrant and unconventional the album is, opening song “The Seduction,” although one of the heavier tracks on the album, propels along with an energy and up-tempo that would even complement swing dancing.
Truly, the entire album beckons the listener to completely lose themself, and it’s incredibly easy to do so. “Eating a Book,” with its lively tone and playful lyrics like “there’s a monster in my room, we discuss movies over coffee, and I think it’s quite absurd,” is the album's closest thing to a post-hardcore Foo Fighters song, which is about as awesome as it sounds. “China White,” probably the best track on the record, drives forward at a similarly rapid pace until descending into a reflective break of heavy reverb guitars and Croom’s quiet crooning. The song then promptly ascends into one of the best chorus’ I’ve ever heard. It’s I Am Hollywood’s
version of OK Computer’s
ending to “Exit Music (For a Film),” “Let Down,” or “Karma Police.” Croom explodes with “I don’t believe in miracles, but I believe in you!” before soaring even higher into “I can’t wait till I can sleep in late, maybe I’ll miss you then with no garden to tend” that flies over equally reaching guitars. The song never fails to shake me to the core with just how triumphant it is, and moments like this are far-reaching and frequent.
The simple fact remains that I’ve yet to come across a record more entertaining in the post-hardcore genre than I Am Hollywood
. Its energy is insuppressible, its lyrics clever and playful--ranging from fairy tale references, to Shakespeare, to the stereotypical girl problems almost every band sings about, yet with wittier quips and more intelligent insights than most of their contemporaries--and its songwriting exudes remarkable variance. If anything about I Am Hollywood
is unfortunate it's that the record set the bar too ridiculously high for anything He is Legend has done since, or likely will ever do. Their two follow ups, while good in their own right, hardly hold a candle to their debut record that introduced me to the genre nearly nine years ago. It may be that I never find a post-hardcore record that blends such critical excellence and fun again, but that’s okay; I Am Hollywood
is more than sufficient.