’90s babies! Fists up! ’90s babies! Fists up!
Those are the words of Identity Krisis lead singer Cortez Mars during his band’s “Young Days” on their most recent effort, “Krismerica,” and frankly, there hasn’t been a more symbolic line an artist has uttered since Jay-Z once proclaimed, “Money ain’t a thang!” Drawing almost exclusively on rap-rock, this Prince George’s County outfit couldn’t be more Gen Y if they were sitting in the back seat of a Ford Tempo, listening to a Korn record on a Discman on the way to a Family Values tour stop.
Some would call it a curse. Others might call it unintentionally funny. Truth is, it’s probably neither. You could argue all day about the value of the metal/hip-hop fad that came and went quicker than those Jnco jeans went out of fashion, but the reality of a group who calls themselves Identity Krisis is that they don’t have one — poke fun all you want, but these guys know exactly what they want to be and for that they should be commended. Now, as for that whole Limp Bizkit-cum-ICP thing they have going on … well, there’s a reason Fred Durst is known more for his juice cleansing habits than he is his aggressive crooning these days.
And suffice to say, that reason doesn’t do Identity Krisis any favors.
“Fallout” is the roughest of the bunch. Taking from the Staind book of songwriting, the group uses clean guitar and a slow mid-tempo to try to talk about “darkness,” “street lights” and a “boulevard of broken dreams.” You’ve heard the chord progression before, even if your only exposure to music is when you happen to be in your weird uncle’s car while he has the radio tuned to DC101 or WHFS. Three Doors Down might be the most accessible comparison musically, though Mars’ voice saves the band from going full-on Ford commercial.
Actually, the silver lining in all of this is the guy’s flow. Perched on top of hip-hop beats proper, you have to wonder how he might sound. The attitude and confidence is there, and despite his wordplay being in need of a touch-up, his flow is concise and easy, not unlike a young Lupe Fiasco, before the anger and politics began to set in. Mars’ problem lies within his lack of tenderness — even when he wants to be emotional, his established mettle doesn’t allow room for any softness in presentation. See “Silent Serenade” for proof.
Other things to value? Give a listen to “The Kids,” a proclamatory opening number that takes its cues from the best of what nu-metal gave us in the mid-’90s. Guitar lines bend with vigor and ability, precise lightning bolts never missing the trees for which they aim. It’s almost the record’s most complete moment, despite the (hopefully) ironic observation that the band now has “hipster love appeal,” whatever that even means. Sure, dude. You guys would KILL with the Bon Iver crowd.
Things get poppy with “Party Syndrome,” a song that sounds exactly like you think it would sound: Drum breaks for verses, simple, spare guitar fiddling and all the empty plastic cups one could imagine. It’s cheap, predictable and sounds like it could have been an outtake from a Salvia session, but you can’t blame it for trying to be something it’s not. Those feelings should instead be directed toward “Music And Heartbreak,” a 5:40 pit of nothingness. Backed by the sound of an ocean’s waves, the Krisis kids make their play for pretentiousness as two guitars overlap without the help of vocals, drums or anything else you could throw into the red baseball cap. It’d be fine, if it didn’t go on for six godforsaken minutes, but at about the 100-second mark, you begin to question how desperate they were to get a 10th track for the album.
It’s unfortunate, because devoid of that, a ridiculously kitschy opening skit, a short 30-second-something called “Fin” and one or two of the weaker originals, this would have been a relatively solid EP, all things considered. But then again, Identity Krisis couldn’t care less about being labeled “solid” by some weekly newspaper in Frederick anyway. Why is that?
“All you critics are ridiculous, it’s simply as it seems,” Mars relates on the hyper-dark “Neighbors.” Hey, if it works for you, bro.
** 2 STARS OUT OF 4 **