POP EVIL is one of the most predictable acts in heavy rock, and rolling out its fifth album as a self-titled release: did anyone see that coming? When a band self-titles a record, it can either be a rebirth or a schlep, and, in this case, both ring true. POP EVIL undeniably takes new strides in this outing, seeking at times to be sociopolitical leaders of agro rock. Electronic elements are drizzled into the album, along with acoustic and piano-driven numbers as the band hopscotches genres to dress up its conventions.
Agro pop is naturally this band’s specialty, immediately evident by the minimalist crunch chords set amidst the electro scratching and perfumed choruses—Leigh Kakaty literally spritzes to annoyance—on the opening number, “Waking Lions”. The layered backing vocals on the bridge offers the track a minute sense of style; otherwise, you’ve heard these lines before, which is either your comfort or your caveat.
“Colors Bleed” purports to be tougher with extra fang to the riffs and Leigh Kakaty‘s snarling tirade, taking his best crack at a Zack de la Rocha, Kakaty‘s vocal hero, impersonation. The song wishes it could be RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE—ditto for “Art Of War”, which does have a decent kick—but it lacks the chops and a necessary fire to get within the eclipse of, say, “Testify”. The bridge is what works best. The KORN-mirroring “Ex Machina”, a far superior sci-fi film by comparison, is an unsurprising huff and shove number, yielding minimal shove.
While “Colors Bleed” is the album’s leadoff single, “Be Legendary” is the album’s obvious heat seeker. This could’ve been legendary if POP EVIL had it in them the jack the volume to MÖTLEY CRÜE‘s heights. Nevertheless, expect this song to worm its way into sports culture. It’s tailor-made for athletes or anyone looking to slam down a pep pill and get through the daily slog.
If you’d rather sin than go nose first at life, there’s the INXS-aspiring “Nothing But Thieves”, a cut that overstays its welcome past six minutes. Giving POP EVIL the benefit of the doubt for dynamics, the band sends the pop world a love letter with its quirky hip hop rocker, “A Crime To Remember”. Then there’s the cleverly titled “God’s Dam”, a would-be grunge number—it contains too much aerosol to be a genuine grunge number—that’s nevertheless one of the album’s most pleasing cuts. This, even with its awkward electronic outro in an obvious bid to win Trent Reznor‘s affections.
The hand-swaying breeze of “When We Were Young” will readily grab POP EVIL listeners, while you might need to be of a younger age or find the essential empathy for post-adolescence to lock onto “Birds of Prey”. To that length, this self-titled recording is about appeasement as it is trying on some new digs. It’s still fluff, no matter what turn POP EVIL takes, yet an appreciable sense of flair saves it from thudding outright.