Music Reviews

Artist: Broken Down (@)
Title: Drop Dead Entertainer
Format: CD + Download
Label: Altsphere (@)
Rated: *****
I have to say it was with some trepidation that I loaded this CD into the player; after Broken Down's 2015 debut, 'First Spit,' I had absolutely no hope for this project. It was fucking awful, with a capital F (or A if you prefer). Thankfully, 'Drop Dead Entertainer' is a whole lot better, and while still pretty far out there, has its moments of lunatic genius. Imagine if the Dead Kennedys and the Residents got together to put out a hardcore punk industrial album. It might sound something like 'Drop Dead Entertainer'. It vacillates from manic-panic to just plain weird Asylum of Charenton song stylings. The subgenius behind Broken Down is Jeff Maurer, who alternately sounds like Jello Biafra filtered through the histrionics of John Lydon, and Henry Rollins in his Black Flag days.

The way 'Drop Dead Entertainer' begins might give you some clue to the utter weirdness of this album- A neoclassical piano melody over which is heard an obscure film dialogue sample about "pushing your spirit through the veil to a gasless reality" takes up the first minute, then after "The Entertainer's Sermon," "Sunburn Factory" kicks in with synth bass, programmed drums and industrial guitar, and Maurer's strange vocal styling in sing-song martial fashion. There's other keys in the background on the chorus bolstering the intensity, and the hardcore punk influence is in heavy evidence. It's like mixing Nitzer Ebb with Suicidal Tendencies. Strange as it is, "Cervical Vertibrae Evolution" doesn't work half as well with piano on the verses and Jeff's (normal?) odd voice, and hoarse death metal vocal on the chorus. There is plenty of distorted industrial/punk/hardcore guitar which serves as a staple sound throughout the album. The faster "All You Need Now" works better, ripping through every barrier that gets in its way. Very California hardcore punk. Surely a rabble-rouser if played live.

Back to more oblique territory on "Nightly Trance" and this sounds as if it was cooked up by asylum inmates. Quite often Broken Down returns to an odd piano-based number which begins rather innocuously, then morphs into heavier and more distressing terrain. It's unusual, but I'm not so sure it's a good thing; a rather disjunct format. There often seems to be some sort of schizophrenic disparity in Broken Down's songs between vintage chanson, and the industrial punk that inexorably boils to the surface; a musical Jekyll and Hyde if you will. Over the 18 track on the album, some are truly inspired while others are barely tolerable. It's like there is no filter on Broken Down's creative nozzle, letting anything and everything from the spigot spew forth. I think most that attempt to listen to 'Drop Dead Entertainer' all the way through are going to find it an arduous undertaking. Some songs like "Down The Stairs" are just plain goofy, regardless of the industrial metal trappings, and maybe that's where the (seeming) Residents influence comes in. Songs sometimes have a habit of taking odd turns and heading off into unexpected directions. As a whole I find 'Drop Dead Entertainer' to be an "acquired taste," but some people out there are going to love it for its undeniable weirdness.

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