Review Summary: If you're over the age of 40, I'm not sure you should listen to this record.
Lyrically speaking, Wasted Mind
is the equivalent of the cult-favorite book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In case you missed Hunter S. Thompson’s influential story or its movie adaptation, it revolved around a road trip to sin city in which two individuals completely lost themselves in an excessive binge of drug-use: cocaine, ether, hallucinogens -- you name it. It wasn’t so much about Vegas as it was the madness brought on by drugs, and the limits of the mind to endure such abuse. Milwaukee’s Direct Hit! have returned with their follow up to Brainless God
, and – much like the famous novel – they’ve brought enough mind-altering substances to fill a suitcase to the brim.
If Brainless God
was the band’s satirical take on a religious Armageddon told via sugary pop hooks, Wasted Mind
is their humorous, often vicious stab at our youth’s drug culture. With rich hyperbole, every song is vibrant and overstuffed with more sarcastic drug references than you could readily count on one hand. Songs like ‘Infinite Pills, Infinite Alcohol’ and ‘Was it the Acid?' exhibit humorous lyrics and contagious hooks as the band paint a very blurry line between reality and drug-induced insanity: a line where it’s hard to tell what’s real, and what’s a side effect of the drugs.
Apart from the album’s manic, drug-obsessed foundation, it’s the band’s ability to flawlessly recreate the sound of early 2000’s pop-punk that gives them an edge over their peers. If you grew up on the likes of Blink-182 or New Found Glory, this album is sure to be a nostalgic treat. There’s not a lot here that hasn’t been done before, but the execution more than makes up for it. Besides, chances are you won’t be wading through hallucinatory visuals of alligator faces or an ocean of pills with your pastime favorites anytime soon. Direct Hit! are a special band because they take a familiar sound from yesteryear, but combine it with a level of intensity and wit that’s rarely found in a pop-punk record – all without ever taking themselves too seriously. Yet, they’re no strangers to innovation either. Their second concept album in a row is just as ballsy and imaginative as their last one, but it also contains an extra coating of variety. On Brainless God
all the songs sort of just bled together into a cohesive whole, but on Wasted Mind
each tune feels like a rowdy, standalone tale of inebriation. ‘Forced to Sleep’ could very well be an anthem for our society’s hazy-eyed youth, with crunchy guitars and terrible advice colliding in a way only Direct Hit! could achieve: add up all the amphetamines and pour them in your mouth, take a sip of Diphenhydramine when your heart starts going south.
At times, Wasted Mind
feels a bit pop-heavy given the crazed subject matter, but that’s where heavier cuts like ‘Paid in Brains’ and ‘Do the Sick’ come into play. The former is a grim, yet amusing glimpse of the price one pays for an excessive intake of drugs. With a seamless blend of pop-punk and an edgier hardcore approach, the track gives the third full-length effort by Direct Hit! an extra jolt of energy. The real punch to the gut, however, hits during the boisterous closing track. ‘Do the Sick’ pretty well sums up the darkly satirical themes of intoxication throughout Wasted Mind
, and it hits with the velocity of the previous ten tracks rolled into one angry anthem. There’s no question it’s the heaviest song on the album – and probably their entire career – as Nick Woods belts out line after line with an aggressive and relentless demeanor. On the other hand, the less heavy tracks spare no amount of energy, with huge sing-a-long choruses (‘Villain Alcoholic', ‘Hospital of Heroes’) and screamed backing vocals that make tales of drug-use more fun than they probably should be.
To say Direct Hit! carry the themes of drug experimentation on Wasted Mind
to the level of excess would be an understatement, but that’s precisely the point. Whether it’s the opening of ‘Forced to Sleep’ which makes swallowing down amphetamines sound as harmless as candy, or the depiction of partygoers foaming at the mouth after ingesting questionable pills in ‘Paid in Brains’, the album is as whacky and adventurous as the often referenced Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. In regards to Wasted Mind
, vocalist Nick Woods stated I hadn’t really experimented with drugs until some time in the last couple years. Having approached that horizon later than most who ever do, it’s easy for me to see how so many people have realized such amazing ideas with the use of mind-altering chemicals and plants. But it’s also easy to see why a lot of those people descend into madness and ruin.
This sentiment translates throughout the album, as the band’s depictions of substance abuse range from playful to cautionary, and sometimes both. It’s clear Direct Hit! are an ambitious bunch, and their second concept album in a row does not disappoint. From start to finish, the album is an absolute blast of energy, and everything fans of Brainless God
could have ever hoped for. That’s three for three.