Review Summary: With Beating a Dead Horse, Jarrod Alonge has crafted an album that stands on its own musically, and has enough of an insider perspective to accurately and sharply lampoon his chosen genres.
Satire has become very difficult to pull off well lately. Thanks to the nature of the Internet, emphasis is placed more highly on how quickly one can get the joke out and move on, rather than actually being accurate or even funny.
Jarrod Alonge does not sacrifice the quality of his satire for speed. He worked on this album for six months (after a very successful IndieGoGo campaign) and it shows; every detail is absolutely nailed, the production is flawless, and the lyrics are legitimately entertaining.
If you've been following Jarrod Alonge for any length of time, you know that he is essentially the in-house comedian for this generation's hardcore scene, poking fun at various aspects of pop-punk, scenecore both new and old, xXxtuff-guy hardcorexXx, rebloggable emo, djent, and even crunkcore. His "Every (Metalcore/Hardcore/Pop-Punk) Vocalist" series have gained him millions of views on YouTube and even good-natured acknowledgment from many bands in the scene who have collaborated with him in various videos (at one time or another he has had members of Issues, Sleeping with Sirens, Enter Shikari, and more featured in his videos). This lends him a good deal of credibility and thus many had very high hopes for this album.
Jarrod could not have surpassed his fans' expectations more. His satire generally tends to be affectionate and thus most bands have a good sense of humor about his mocking of them, but on this album, he appears to have found some aspects of the scene that he legitimately takes offense to and thus his voice becomes much sharper, more pointed, and even funnier.
Jarrod's humor usually follows a specific formula-- find the one funniest thing in the bedrock of the genre, and exaggerate past the point of absurdity. This is something that would get old quickly if the details weren't so pinpoint accurate, the musicianship and production less proficient, and the music weren't as varied. Fortunately, Jarrod has chosen an eclectic mix of genres to mock, with the help of scene luminaries such as Cody Carson (Set It Off), Mike Semesky (ex-Intervals), and Johnny Franck (ex-Attack Attack!), as well as fellow YouTubers Jared Dines, Dave Days, Drewsif Stalin, and Stevie T.
The album begins with "The Swimmer," by Amidst the Graves' Demons, which is an affectionate ribbing of various metalcore trends, such as drowning imagery and Southern-style riffs. It's not my favorite track on the album by any means, but it's a solid "mission statement" that provides context for the rest of the album.
"Love Me Back" by Sunrise Skater Kids is where things really start to pick up, by taking one aspect of the genre (the fact that lovelorn pop-punk lyrics can sound rather creepy when taken seriously) and amps it up to eleven.
The standout songs of the album typically belong to Baltimore's Sunrise Skater Kids, actually, with "Take It Easycore" being an excellent rip on the "I love my friends!" Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! style of pop-punk, "Pop Punk Pizza Party" being an instantaneous classic (it is an older song of Jarrod's, but this time with a new singer and MUCH stronger production), and the closing number "Goodbye Baltimore" being a fantastic parody of Man Overboard's acoustic material and pop-punk's stereotypical "get me out of this town!" lyrics.
That's not to say the other "bands" don't make a strong showing, however. Emo parody band Canadian Softball probably have the funniest song on the album in "The Distance Between Me and You Is Longer Than the Title of This Song," which takes on La Dispute, Tiny Moving Parts, American Football, and other emo bands expertly, with a genius twist at the end that I won't spoil for you. $wagchode were created specifically to bag on Brokencyde and "2 Freaky 4 Da Club" is a very clever take on it. Vermicide Violence takes the gory lyrics of deathcore bands like Whitechapel and amps it up to the point of cartoonish disgust in "Inconceivable Somatic Defecation."
Fake Boston hardcore band Chewed Up have two very solid tracks, one in the Stick To Your Guns/Stray from the Path "BLEH!"-filled pastiche "Unbreakable," but the stronger of the two being "Bite the Curb." "Bite the Curb" mocks tough-guy bands who rip off Terror in a way that reveals just how insecure the vocalists of those bands must be, coming from upper-class suburban households and generally being upstanding citizens while also trying to come off as "hard." It also points out the hypocrisy of tough-guy's beatdown culture by contrasting it with their lyrics, which are usually positive and uphold generic societal norms like honesty and respect.
The least memorable songs on the album, although musically good, are probably Rectangles "Cosmic Metaphysical Verisimilitude" and Amidst the Grave's Demons "I'm So Scene 2.0." Djent in general is a very forgettable style of metalcore and this track doesn't do much to distinguish itself as a parody (outside of legitimately funny non sequiturs like "Construct additional pylons!"), and at this point Jarrod's fans have heard "I'm So Scene" about four times in new forms. Although this version does point out that it's 2015 and the horse is deader than dead, it still doesn't excuse the repetition.
As far as satire goes, though, the two sharpest and most pointed songs on the album belong to Amidst the Grave's Demons: "Save My Life" and "Misogyneric." "Save My Life" absolutely demolishes self-important douchebags who sing for metalcore bands and exploit depressed teenagers with their faux-inspirational lyrics, while simultaneously perpetuating those teenagers' depression and inflating their own sense of self-worth. Matty Mullins is probably the specific target here, but there are many bands who are guilty. "Misogyneric," meanwhile, attacks the "Nice Guy," friendzoned archetype who are angry at women for rejecting them, and it does so with such venom that you know Jarrod is sick of hearing those types of lyrics.
And I would be remiss not to mention "Hey Jarrod, What's That Song Again"", a lovingly nostalgic tribute to scene bands from the glory days of 2010. Everything from the title, which references The Devil Wears Prada, to the end of the scene, which overlays the keys from Attack Attack!'s "Stick Stickly" on top of the chugging from A Day to Remember's "Downfall of Us All," is proof of the love that Jarrod clearly has for the genres he's mocking.
It's that love that elevates this album to classic status. The songs are good enough to stand on their own outside of parody status because Jarrod simply adores the songcraft and clearly admires these bands. It's why the satire is so funny-- he's a true insider, and that's why the kids of the scene have embraced him so fully. He knows what's up.