Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This Is Gonna Hurt -- Sixx:A.M.

2007's The Heroin Diaries was a pleasant surprise for mainstream rock. The album, which accompanied Sixx's book of the same name, was a beautiful piece of art. It began with emotions of desolation and gradually grew more hopeful as the album progressed. Lyrics within were haunting and heart-felt. The combination of these factors contributed to an album that was well above average, resulting in elevated expectations for the follow-up. While This Is Gonna Hurt is by no means a bad album, it does not stand up to the quality of its predecessor. It isn't even close.

The good news is there are no songs on the album that are repulsive. Unfortunately for Sixx: A.M., there are absolutely no memorable songs, either. Everything seems completely uninspired. One of things that made The Heroin Diaries a good album was the sincerity, which is completely lacking here. This Is Gonna Hurt seems forced. It is as if the band was surprised with the success they received by riding “Life is Beautiful” and ended up being cornered into pushing out a sophomore attempt. The album is boring, generic, and over-saturated with ballads. It is exactly the type of album that one would expect to be released by Daughtry. Nearly every song follows the verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo or bridge/chorus structure, failing to adequately capture the attention of listeners.

Despite the album tending to be a bit monotonous, the voice of James Michael is far from boring. His vocals alone are reason enough to give This Is Gonna Hurt a listen or two. There are times where it is difficult to distinguish his voice from Adam Lambert and Muse's Matt Bellamy. While this is an enormous compliment, it is regretful that it seems that Michael does not attempt to test his range as often as he did on the previous effort and, as such, repeat listens should be given to that album instead of the more recent release. He already showed the world he was a top-tier vocalist in previous years, so why take conservative approach now? The same holds true for the rest of the band, as well. Everyone in the band can be considered above average within their genre, but it seems each, as well as their instrument tone, has regressed. Nikki Sixx can lay down blistering bass tracks, but the bass is nearly lost in the mix this time around. It is actually difficult at times to hear the notes he is playing without bass-heavy earphones. The guitar work of DJ Ashba is not above this criticism, either. Ashba plays very well and it surely takes a great deal of talent to play as he does, but one would have to search extremely hard to find a solo in the album that contained any sort of feeling. It was as if he knew that this album required a solo after the second chorus of every song, so he just threw something together and moved on to the next one.

Michael is an excellent singer and there is no denying this, but the words that are issued forth from his mouth throughout This Is Gonna Hurt are less than appetizing. If there is one thing that holds the album back more than anything else, it is the lyrics. An apparent lack of sincerity bleeds through and, considering The Heroin Diaries contained genuine and well-crafted words, comes as a major disappointment. The same aspect that drew listeners in previously, now may be the very thing that separates them from the band. What makes it worse is that not only are many songs filled with seemingly uninspired lyrics, but often times the lyrics are just bad. As Michael softly sings, “And sometimes I wish you were dead; And I'm not even joking” in “Help is on the Way”, it may be difficult to hold back a cringe. Other songs follow the storytelling route and end up sounding like Uncle Kracker or Train:

The traffic's backed up on the 405,
And the smog's so thick you can cut it with a knife,
But it gives me time,
To think about my life,
I take the 10 to the 5 to the 101,
I got a song sitting here on the tip of my tongue,
And the more I drive,
The more I feel alive.

The second verse of “Sure Feels Right” is no better than the first in the lyrical department, but maybe above average lyrics are not a necessity for the creation of a good song; the song is, indeed, relaxing. However, there is only so far a song or, more importantly, an album can propel itself without the presence of quality songwriting and lyricism.

Even with all the criticism, it is unfair to label This Is Gonna Hurt as poor or even below average, because by all definitions, the album is mediocre. It is better than a lot of the horrific works that have come out of mainstream rock, but it is worse than just as many. Fans of mainstream rock will eat up this album. Fans of The Heroin Diaries will be left wanting something more.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Genre: Mainstream Rock

Recommended Tracks:
Lies of the Beautiful People
Live Forever

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