Five is HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD‘s new album; they have five members, this is their fifth album, and it is a throwback to No.5, the fifth song from their first album. Over the last few albums the musical style has changed a bit, it’s still HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD, bursting at the seams with raw anger and a colourful array of expletives, but there are fewer raps, in place of a more poppy sound, dance breakdowns, more clean vocals, and an overall gentler sound.
California has always featured very heavily in their music, it’s a large part of their identity, and it is no different in Five, which opens with California Dreaming. It jumps straight in, fast past vocals and guitars, comparing the two sides of California, all the glitz and glamour that hides the very poor and rougher side of the city. This certainly isn’t a new subject in their music, but one that’s clearly important to crop up again. The song builds up to softer choruses which include a children’s choir joins in on the final line: “in California we’re dreaming”.
Ghost Beach is the first ever HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD song that features entirely clean vocals, with a focus sad laments over the changed city “What happened to the city we knew?” Are they growing up and reflecting more on their overall life from a more mature standpoint? This album would certainly suggest that, but don’t worry, it is still HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD, they’re just showing a gentler side in Ghost Beach. Broken Record is another example of the softer sound they are going for, with a gentle chorus, both musically and lyrically: “save me from this broken record playing in my heart.” The soft chorus is still interspersed with strong rap verses, defiantly sung, but without the aggressive guitars in favour of gentle riffs. It has a very honest feel to the song, its genuine emotion with no thought to saving face.
Black Cadillac has an ominous feel to it with Funny Man singing in a low voice on the chorus, which opens the song alongside an atmospheric introduction. Funny Man’s line “six misfits running through your hometown” stands out as their essence, this is how they see themselves, where they fit into society. This song is also their second collaboration, featuring B-REAL who sings the final verse. It fits beautifully into the song, completely at home among the other misfits. It also has signature cleverly worded fast raps from Johnny 3 Tears and J-Dog, which are defiant, aggressive, and full of character.
Riot is the highlight of the album; the music builds with a dance beat, growing up until “Fuck that shit, let’s start a riot!” is chanted by the group, and probably by most of the people listening along. It is a very hip-hop/dance song, part of the reason it is great for building a mood, and is sure to be fantastic live.
We Own The Night is the quintessential HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD song bursting full of aggression, violence, life on the street, and fast paced raps. Discussing what it’s like on the streets after dark, they make it clear they are not to be messed with. However, they mix things up a bit by using an organ, unusual for the song but it fits in nicely.
Ten years on, and Five demonstrates that HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD are not letting up, they’ve tweaked and perfected along the way to produce a powerful album, full of anthems and explosive lyrics. A strong mix of guttural raps, aggression, gentler riffs, and even an organ. Every song is HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD through and through, yet seems more reflective, with fewer songs about partying and more about the state of California and the way it’s changed. Have HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD matured a bit?
Five is out now via Dove/BMG.
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