“The mainstream is waiting! Give ’em what they want!” roars Colson Baker on the title track of Mainstream Clearance. The rapper-turned-rocker delivers, churning out 13 tracks that wrap generic angst around formulaic grunge-pop packages. This is what you expect to find at your local mall’s Vans outlet.
This is Baker’s sixth album as Machine Gun Kelly and sketchily follows the arc of his life to date. We witness his journey from the misfit child (the child of divorced missionaries), to the extra misfit ring he experienced as a young star, to the slovenly soulmate he found with his fiancé, Megan Fox. The couple delighted the press by drinking vials of each other’s blood and chaining themselves together. The actor – who calls Baker her “twin flame” – doesn’t seem bothered by the recently resurfaced comments he made about black women, or having sex with Kendall Jenner when he was 23 and she was 17 (the legal Age) was consent in California is 18).
The riffs on this album are catchy enough to get beanie heads nodding along. But producer Travis Barker (Blink 182) keeps filling in the sound enough to lose the exposed angularity needed to express true fear. Or maybe it’s just an English critic’s reaction to a style of punk that’s hitting America harder. All but one of the album’s pre-singles have made the US Top 10 – but they all failed to dent the UK Top 40.
“Born With Horns” begins with a drum clatter and a rumbling bass as MGK describes how his mother and father left him. “Alienate me! I’m not who you want!” he yells. “Maybe” (featuring British metal band Bring Me The Horizon) gets right to the point: “Ignore me, I’m f***ed up!” It also introduces some trending conspiracy stuff about UFOs and the government, listening to his phone. He is joined by rapper Lil Wayne in “Drug Dealer,” which pays tribute to a girl who provides him with the Adderall he was addicted to: “It’s hard to function when I’m without you.”
The title track plays with the idea of the star as a “poser with a guitar” like the wannabe Cobain character MGK in the new film Bull. Thrashing guitars and bass that vibrate every string to the mush, he scoffs at the notion that celebrity “has it easy” and bangs out the old line about selling his soul for fame. Things get even more catchy on “Emo Girl,” starring emo-pop revivalist Willow Smith. The underlying violence is a little disconcerting, but it’s Smith, not Baker, who delivers the lines: “Choke-choke-choker on her neck, kiss me/ Holy f***, I’m blooding on your Blink tee.”
The sound eventually gives way around the notes on the mumble groove of “Paper Cut,” where Baker snores at people pretending to be nice. Lil Wayne returns to the duet with the soft sweep of “Ay!” where we get more sad star slag: “Did an interview with my eyes closed…cut my hair like Britney.” “WW4” is uncomfortably close to geopolitical truth with its apocalyptic enthusiasm.
Fans looking for the inside track on his romance with Fox will have to skip to the last two tracks. Hopefully, despite his lyrical enthusiasm for “Murder-Suicide,” he doesn’t really want them to end up like “Sid and Nancy.” In interviews, both stars rave about wandering the beaches while tripping over mushrooms, and then coming home to watch Harry Potter movies together. I suspect they’re more akin to the characters MGK describes on “Twin Flame”: an acoustic serenade with a Hallmark punk refrain: “You’re too good for me/ I’m too bad to keep/ I’m too.” sad, lonely / I just want you”. It’s catchy enough. But a bit boring, isn’t it?
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/reviews/machine-gun-kelly-review-mainstream-sellout-b2043000.html Machine Gun Kelly review, Mainstream Sellout: Dull album wraps generic angst with formulaic grunge pop