Review Summary: Hinder just don't care about being all of America's nightmares.
I’ve been keeping a deep dark secret throughout my whole tenure here on Sputnikmusic. No one knows this, save for a gym teacher I had in elementary school who worshipped them. That secret?
I don’t hate
Honestly, I don’t know why, but Hinder’s brand of sexually-fueled, brash post-grunge never bothered me at all. Maybe it’s because they were one of the first rock bands I loved (the others being Nickelback and 3 Doors Down – quality stuff there!), or maybe it’s because hearing the opening chords of “Lost in the Sun” and “Nothin’ Good About Goodbye” brings back nostalgic memories of fourth grade summer, but there’s something about their first two albums that I just can’t hate.
The key words – “their first two albums
All American Nightmare
was the beginning of Hinder’s long-awaited and well-deserved implosion. Not only did it mark a sharp decrease in quality from the passable Take It to the Limit
, but it also signaled the band’s commercial decline. The title track went top ten on the rock charts, but second single “What Ya Gonna Do” could barely crack the top 20. Following the underperformance of “Save Me”, Hinder were barely relevant anymore, culminating in frontman Austin Winkler’s departure from the band following the appropriately titled Welcome to the Freakshow
. Even though he was easily replaced by Saving Abel’s Jared Weeks (swapping generic with generic is a great gameplan), reclaiming their chart success and relevancy seems all but impossible now.
To understand why All American Nightmare
is such an unbearable record, we have to look back at what made Hinder’s first two albums passable. First of all, aside from the occasional references to make-up and pre-breakup sex, there was a lack of explicit “cock rock”, songs that glorified getting it on and objectified women for being nothing but good at fucking. Sure, there was “Room 21”, but that was just one
song. Buckcherry and Nickelback normally have four of those in their arsenal for one album, so compared to them, Hinder doesn’t exactly ratchet up the raunch all too often. All American Nightmare
is different, because they completely reached those Nickelback and Buckcherry levels. It’s kind of obvious what songs titled “Hey, Ho” and “Striptease” are about. So much for the subtlety. Aside from the awful sexually-charged lyrics, most of them recycle subject matter that is “stereotypical” Hinder. There’s no hiding behind the fact that their post-breakup ballads are meant to model “Lips of An Angel”, or even “Better Than Me”.
On prior records, Austin Winkler’s vocals were nothing special, but at least they were tolerable. Yet on tracks like the aforementioned “Striptease” and “2 Sides of Me”, Winkler sings in such an unbearable gruff register that the only thing worse is hearing him suddenly change into high-pitched wailing. As the focal point of the band, his vocals are the first thing that are noticed, and when they’re as godawful as they are on All American Nightmare
, perfectly average songs like “Everything’s Wrong” get turned to shit because of Winkler’s unpleasant presence. It’s the main reason why Hinder’s third album is, and I’m not being hyperbolic here, one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard.
A lot of people love to rag on Hinder for their ballads, but the cold hard truth is that “Better Than Me” and “Nothin’ Good About Goodbye” had emotion
in them. The pain of heartbreak easily resonated through Winkler, and even if it felt a little bit clichéd, they were still enjoyable. Take It to the Limit
’s rehashes “Without You” and “Last Kiss Goodbye” may not have been as good, but they’re practically Floyd compared to the emotionless, soul-sucking tripe that is “Waking Up the Devil” and “What Ya Gonna Do”. All traces of what made Hinder acceptable in the past were gone, vanished, a thing of the past. Even when they’re “rocking out”, it’s a very, very far cry from some of my favorite Hinder songs. “Lost in the Sun” and “Loaded and Alone” at least had the decency to inject some energy into their generic rock structure.
And even though All American Nightmare
was an atrocity, they still got worse.