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When You See Sparks

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Album review: Deuce’s Nine Lives

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May 3rd, 2012 at 1:55 pm

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Deuce Nine Lives

Artist: Deuce
Album: Nine Lives
Label: Five Seven Music
Format: Physical and download LP

CLR Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

I had quite a long think about whether or not to review this album. Then I had a longer think about whether to include lyrics or links to videos. The thing that bothered me was that often media outlets try a ‘blackout’ for really offensive artists in the hope of crushing their success but realistically, the Deuce/Hollywood Undead PR machine goes a long way further than not reviewing this can stop. The album is being bought (11,425 copies in its first week) and I have yet to see a ‘proper’ site discuss it. It doesn’t make it go away to avoid it and driving it into the niche echo-chambers inhabited by Hollywood Undead obsessives means you could still think this is just a harmlessly naff record liked by teenagers.

Before you proceed- this does reproduce some of the lyrics, which contain triggers for sexual assault.

In my time, I have listened to some really terrifyingly bad music. I’m a reviewer and have been for ten years so that’s to be expected but so have you- from sixth-form local bands to that Staind album enough of us bought copies of to make it platinum across the globe, to Asher Roth, to utterly unlistenable noise-barrage that actually was just utterly unlistenable, not ‘super brutal’ whatever your teenage self thought.

It tends to be the case, if you’re listening voluntarily rather than because you’ve been assigned it for the week, that the worse music is the more you find yourself accidentally caught up in a lot of vitriol about it. This is no doubt some kind of primal subconscious response to make you learn an important life lesson after you spend three weeks declaring [Your New, Terrible Favourite Band] the best thing ever and that everyone who listens to anything else is a misbegotten fool, loudly and at great length while tattooing their name on your foot and dropping out in order to follow their tour: that you are as fallible as any other human being.

This particular fervor tends to occcur at pivotal and exciting points in your life such as ‘being fifteen’ and for whatever reason, offensive music is extremely appealling. Which is all the only possible reasoning I can find for the fact that money has been spent on producing, let alone pressing and distributing this, the first album that’s ever made me feel physically ill.

Deuce is a rapper, formerly of much-reviled rap-rock group Hollywood Undead. When Hollywood Undead first appeared the contrarian in me investigated as to whether they were any cop and discovered that they were essentially 3OH!3 with masks on and surely couldn’t be serious/last long. The performance about spending two years finding a label who ‘wouldn’t censor them,’ (as though a frat party dressed for trick-or-treating was likely to be oppressed for their political stance) and other ephemeral nonsense were all part of the generally lazy malaise they constituted and I stopped checking the cover of Kerrang! magazine long enough to not even realise they were still going.

Bad news: they are. Worse news: they kicked Deuce out, citing creative and personality differences- apparently Deuce wanted to go further, lyrically. Arguably, this could have been seen as a desire to move beyond lines like “when I start drinking, my d*ck does all my thinking” onto heavier topics like, oh, I don’t know, ‘literally anything else.’

Despite the usual back-and-forth between the remaining band members and Deuce, the existing Hollywood Undead fanbase eagerly anticipated the release of this- Deuce has claimed he was the creative force behind Hollywood Undead and after an apparent fanbase disappointment at their latest output, this was supposed to be a revival. Which I guess it is, if you took the sum of all the most awful parts of an awful band and turbocharged their ego.

When I say that Nine Lives is a bad album, I don’t just mean that the music is weak or embarassing, I mean that it is vomit-inducing. For baseline, I love the Pusha-T verse of Kanye’s Runaway; plenty ho’s in the balla-n*gga matrix is a fantastic line in a flock of self-hating, projected nastiness and the entire song is one of the most spectacular, navel-gazing displays of unpleasantness ever. Why is it ok? Well, for all the hubris Kanye actually seems to know himself quite well, on record and certainly knows how to make himself sound good, not in the sense of being appealling but in the sense of making his quite average voice sound incredibly compelling, even when he tries some potentially ill-advised singing. The craft of the song doesn’t override his ego but works with it, flattering both.

Equally, some of my favourite lines of last year were from Wiz Khalifa- “got a call from my jeweller this just in: b*tches love me cuz I’ll f*ck ‘em with their best friends/not a lesbian but she a freak though/come stay for one night I’m shining all week ho”. He delivers it with the childish enthusiasm of someone who’s never tried to coordinate a threesome, with all the gleeful optimism that it will be any good at all if it does happen.

I’m quoting these lines for context; I don’t want anyone reading this to think “Oh yeah but the CLR is a highbrow publication that wouldn’t talk about obscene rap music, which I irrationally consider necessarily lowbrow” -firstly because it’s not true, secondly because I love obscene rap music and thirdly because as the Kalenna album linked to there shows, there’s absolutely nothing about shocking, explicit music going directly for an aggressive, disturbing effect that has to be anywhere near lowbrow. In fact, it really has to be the opposite.

Which is a paragraph it’s a shame Deuce clearly hasn’t read. I’m actually almost tempted not to link to the songs from Nine Lives because they’re so repellent but in the name of reviewer’s objectivity and fairness, here’s the intro and the first chorus of LP opener “Let’s Get It Crackin”

All the girlies with the pretty little panties/Turn around, let me smack both them ass cheeks
Throw your cups up if you’ll get nasty
Ooh, damn girl, you’re lookin’ real fancy/Girl, come on Deuce’s lap, I got free candy
Throw your cups up, we’re gonna get nasty

Let’s get it crackin’ bottles/we back in town, we’re so plastered/so meet her in the bathroom
She just turned 18, she calls me baby/cuz she’s been waitin’ all night to rape me

(And here’s a link to the video, with a big NUDITY WARNING over it. Not even good nudity, in case that tempted you.)

No, no- those are actually the lyrics. Unbelievably, the chorus is repeated again and again and those aren’t even the grossest lines in the song, which actually gets worse from there, with broke a hole in her b*tt while suckin on her t*tties, that’s fun cus I can do all three at once (declining numeracy standards, there) delivered in Deuce’s faux-screamo whine.

White rappers, man. They’re embarassing. I had thought, after the rise of the brilliant Yelawolf, there was a decent chance that that streak would stop and a more considered approach, angry but from the same vein as Sole or Atmosphere, rather than Asher Roth, would come to the fore; I don’t mean Drake-style whining, for which there are plenty of white examples but music that stood alone as hip hop and didn’t either invoke an image of a frat party blasting 50 Cent or the genre that ought to work but so incredibly rarely does, ‘rap rock’ delivering whining rants about being grounded or not having a yacht.

The thing that’s thrown at white rappers, always, whether it’s early, snotty Eminem or the towering, sophisticated rage of Yelawolf or the next big thing, is that they’re ‘trying to be black.’ Often, it’s a goofy criticism- you don’t have to be black to like rap and a lot of people try to make music in the style they’re in to. There is a certain stigma about it still (partly in response to the incredible whiteness of a lot of other dominant genres of music) but the mainstream critical line on it is that the question is becoming less interesting. It’s usually an embarassed aside in interviews, thrown in almost apologetically but no longer considered a controversy in itself.

Deuce has decided to singlehandedly attempt to roll all this back. He opens “Help Me” with a racially confused triplet-

I’m the George Bush of this rap sh*t,
You can tell Randy Jackson to kiss my black ass,
I’m the white Obama b*tch,

So just in case you hadn’t got that he wants to be pointlessly offensive, he’s cementing a triple threat; misogyny (no doubt attemptedly rebuffed by the fact he’s got prize idiot Jeffree Starr on several tracks) and now some kind of clumsy racism wrapped up as the world’s worst attempt at political relevance.

Having previously mentioned 50 Cent and Drake; there are some terrible black rappers, too. And some terribly successful terrible black rappers. Even Fiddy has never sunk to the depths of this album though. In 50 Cent’s world he’s a pimp- he’s got no flow, he’s offensive and his music depresses me (apart from “In Da Club”, which remains solid gold) but he never drops the bravado- every song is in the pimp persona, which whether you like it or not, is at least consistent. You’d think Deuce’s non-metaphorical mask would be similarly fixed in place.

But no, of course it isn’t. The great thing about self-fixated performers like Deuce (and I say ‘great’ with as much sarcasm as the internet can inject) is that they cannot resist the desire to slip into navel-gazing drivel. Sometimes this works- I brought up Kanye before- but sometimes they pick topics that slide well into the ‘ludicrous’ zone.

Part of the backstory of Nine Lives (which has expanded beyond the album to a fashion range stocked in perma-yuck American Apparel and it’s also apparently some sort of worldwide movement of naffness) is that Deuce got stuck in contract to a record label who wouldn’t release his music. They wanted to censor it, which if you’ve heard it is hardly surprising and they presumably suggested he make something halfway decent if they were going to fund it. Consequently, he wasn’t allowed to release the album until he won a lawsuit to get released from contract. He addresses this in a way that manages to combine pubescent gormlessness with Ali-G style rap-isms-

These labels want to put me away for good/they wanna keep me in the hood,
But I keep swinging right back like you know I should/making history in the books,
You suck/there’s no buts/the whole music industry can lick my n*ts,
Motherf*cker I ain’t got no love for some fake ass wannabe Donald Trump!

Deuce claims this is a party album. It’s not; I Get Wet by Andrew W K is a party album and at a time when the man himself is touring it’s a fool’s game to claim that. Mr W K’s got specialist party footwear and a career as a motivational speaker to promote, err, partying hard I suppose. Andrew W K is amazing at delivering rocking hard partying because he takes what he does absolutely seriously and is 100% committed to the path of partying hard. He is the evangelist and the mosh pit his congregation.

Comparatively, Deuce is a whinger. In between the one or two tracks that could possibly be classified as ‘party’ rather than ‘angsty moaning’ on the album, every song is a showcase of self-pity about how no one likes him and he’s oppressed by haters. “I Came To Party” is the closest to an actual party (and lyrically least awful) song that we get and Deuce’s sub-Nickelback MOR-rock chorus sucks the life out of. Travie McCoy provides one of two faintly listenable moments on the entire album but at the same time, leaves me feeling depressed that he’s involved with this mess.

I thought the next track, “The One” might actually be a slightly spiky, punky party song but it descends immediately when he kicks in with “I see the sickness in the signs/the dead weight in line/like the sickness in my mind/homosexuals and liars” -and we have achieved triple threat; misogyny, racism and homophobia. Quite an achievement for a guy with a vocabulary of about 300 words.

And on it goes. There is actually, really a track called “Nobody Likes Me,” featuring the eagerly awaited (by someone, although no one is clear who) rap debut of Ronnie Radke, the ex-member of Escape The Fate. The homeopathic dilution of Linkin Park in the instrumental does nothing to disguise Deuce throwing ‘f*ggot’ into the mix repeatedly while explaining how cruel the world has been to him.

YouTube Preview Image

And if you could listen to that chorus, sung by a 30-year-old man, without cringing then I congratulate you, although on the plus side Deuce is so bad you’re profoundly relieved when Ronnie’s inexperienced rapping kicks in. The trite, cliched self-pity continues over “Walk Alone,” which features the naffest “motivational” chorus of overcoming difficulties I’ve ever heard; a Disney TV movie would reject “as I walk alone I still sing for tomorrow” as an opener and it sounds ten thousand times worse whined out by Deuce.

It barely feels worth pointing out he compares himself to legendary rappers on “Till I Drop” (“I’m screaming f*ck the world like Tupac/say my name and you might get shot” -cool story, bro) and all 4:18 of album closer “Now You See My Life” are exactly as you’d imagine. Although it might be worth addressing him on one point in the last song, he questions-

How come I get laughed at by media trash bags,
Just because I’m white and I sing like I’m half black

Deuce, if you’re reading, I hope that this review has gone some way to explaining that it is not because of that. Neither does he sing like he’s half-black; he sings like a dude who is still trying to attend frat parties even though he’s ten years too old.

The real low point of the album, for me, is the lead single. “America” is supposed to be his political stance. There have been some mindblowing political rap songs over the last few years- Words I Never Said by Lupe Fiasco, in particular, is spectacular; dextrous and furious, it roams across all topics

Just in case you were wondering whether Deuce has a Kantian view on state-populace relations, the apex of the song is “WHY CAN’T YOU DIE? MOTHERF*CKER JUST DIE” -according to one of the few reviews I’ve found online the track’s lyrics “really get one thinking” with their political nature. Which is a whole epistemological bag of frogs in its own right.

This is, truly and sincerely, the very worst thing I have ever listened to. Offensive, banal, self-glorifying and pointless- it’s musically repetitive in the extreme (there are no songs that escape without one of Deuce’s dreary “rock” choruses) and self-deluded.

I like to think I wouldn’t try to stop my kids listening to anything- there’s no point in the internet age. Which is why I am hoping some kind of reality-altering event wipes this album off any plane of existence they ever encounter. It achieves the half-star above only because the blank layout might have made it look like it had five.

  • http://wgaf.com S_A_F

    “Deuce is a rapper, formerly of much-reviled rap-rock group Hollywood Undead. When Hollywood Undead first appeared the contrarian in me investigated as to whether they were any cop and discovered that they were essentially 3OH!3 with masks on ”
    F*ck you, just f*ck you!

  • Raslanov 9l4l

    And you call your Self a Reviewer huh ?
    hating on artist’s wont make you stronger or make you famous
    but yea cool story bro !!!!
    you suck at reviewing get your facts STRAIGHT !!!!

  • Jordan Wilcox

    If you can question Deuce’s ability as an artist, I’m going to question your credibility as an album reviewer when you use outdated terms like “cool story, bro”.

    And what do you define as a “proper” site discussing it?
    Billboard (which is way more “proper” than calitreview) wrote an article: “Deuce Drops ‘Bomb-Ass Music’ With ‘Nine Lives’”

    Allmusic: 3/5
    Loudwire: 4/5
    Evigshed: 3/5
    Sputnik Music: 2/5
    Which is an average of 3/5.

    So, Hazel, if you aren’t in the major demographic, you really shouldn’t be reviewing it. That’d be like a toddler reviewing a Frank Sinatra record.

  • Raslanov 9l4l

    Oh i was Expecting This From a School Dropout ha ha !!

  • Mikayla Tomkinson

    Wow. As a journalisms student myself, I am horrified at this appalling ‘review’.
    I have actually got a headache from reading this filth. You complain about Deuce’s album being difficult for you to get through? Have you tried reading one of your own articles? It’s painful.

    I’m going to be honest here; your journalistic abilities are shocking. There was no attempt at remaining objective, you obviously had your own bias. It would seem that bias has stemmed from a personal discontent you hold for the band Hollywood Undead, spilling over into your opinion of Deuce, just because he was formerly involved with (despite Deuce stating he now has nothing to do with that band.)
    When reviewing, you are supposed to remain affixed to your subject (ie. Nine Lives) and not stray to other bands/artists or topics. However, you have paragraphs solely dedicated to other performers in which have no relevance to the album fore mentioned. Therefore, your review was irrelevant and meaningless to the reader.
    Basically, you’ve wasted not only your time writing this but also the viewer’s time reading.

    Considering you label yourself as a reviewer, I’m going to assume that means you have wrote other reviews. I fervently hope that those articles you have wrote in the past were laid out far more better than this.
    Your literacy skills are that of an 11 year old. Your sentences are wordy, contain incorrect grammar and a majority of the adjectives you’ve used were not in appropriate context. The layout is completely jumbled and incorrect. If you’re going to sit in front of your computer and claim you are a reviewer, at least have the ability to write in proper English.

    In conclusion, instead of trying to spread your unfair and ignorant opinion, perhaps you should consider getting an education.

  • http://facebook.com David ninelives wolman

    This has got to be the most bias, and ridiculously un researched article I have ever read. you take the meanings totally wrong and insult him on an ignorant opinion. You really should get a job then a education. and stay away from review’s

  • Bricky

    This is by far the worst review i’ve ever read. RapCore obviously is not your style of music if you hate both Deuce and Hollywood Undead. So why review a kind of music you don’t like? obviously its going to be a bad review and a waste of time
    you call yourself professional? “Cool Story Bro”
    You’re like an 11 year-old on Xbox
    Instead of being biased, how about legitimately reviewing an album the way it should be, but if your going to be Biased, don’t review albums/bands.
    Common Sense

  • James Calloway

    I listened to the album, and it’s not my cup of tea. But this review is ridiculously biased and the points are fabricated. Do not trust this review.

    Like I said, I listened and I didn’t like it – but I disagree with everything said here. I hate Deuce, but I’m astounded at how unprofessionally written this is.

  • Hazel

    Hello James,

    To the best of my knowledge there is nothing fabricated in this review; please let me know if I have misquoted lyrics or similar.

  • http://www.wegotninelives.com Clint Groves

    Hey Hazel,

    I’m sorry I have to drop by, but I have to admit that this is one of the most unprofessional and biased reviews of an album I’ve seen in a good while.

    You don’t have to rate this album on how well YOU like it, that’s not entirely how you review an album, as I’m pretty positive you do it based on musical talent expressed via the songs showcased.

    “he sings like a dude who is still trying to attend frat parties even though he’s ten years too old.”

    Also, let’s correct something here. You’re a reviewer for California Literary, I don’t think calling someone a ‘dude’ and then using a simile to compare him to a ‘frat’ student is professional.

    All in all, when you look at other reviews, they at least show some major love for how well produced the album is or for snappy songwriting, you on the other hand couldn’t show the slightest respect and let your bias overcome your review.

    Really, this review was just repulsive to read. I have no idea how these guys allow you to say such insulting and opinionated hate speeches and allow you to call it music.

    Let be be a disgusting pig like you for the next two sentences: I hope you hated the album so much it makes you want to hang yourself. The world is better off without smart asses like you who give good artists a bad name, but reviewers less credibility.

    -C

  • http://calitreview.com Hazel

    Hello Clint,

    Actually the point of reviewing is to rate it according to what I think. The object then is to justify my opinion.

    Is this album well-produced? In my opinion, no, it’s abysmal; no well-produced album in the 21st Century would contain hate speech about homosexuals or a glib attitude to teenage rape. If you disagree with my opinion about the poverty of the music then it’s hard to disagree with either of those.

    Why should I not use the word ‘dude’? I use that word all the time. This isn’t a criminal court, it’s a blog.

    “Really, this review was just repulsive to read. I have no idea how these guys allow you to say such insulting and opinionated hate speeches and allow you to call it music.”

    You do understand the lyrics I quoted were from Deuce? Because I don’t see any other hate speech here.

    In all honesty, your comment has made me chuckle and open a beer. Sorry about that.

    Hope that helps,

    Hazel

  • Tim

    I like “I fervently hope that those articles you have wrote in the past were laid out far more better than this.” immediately followed by “Your literacy skills are that of an 11 year old.” in Mikayla’s comment.

  • Pufflehuff

    These comments are worse than the album which is worse the review. Or maybe the album is worse than the comments because the comments are quite funny. I still like the review best of the three tho.

  • Faraz

    There is no bad music, just different music. This album was both exciting and very different which made it very special. Take it however you want but you can’t deny that Deuce deserves to be bigger.

    And for you. Your reviewing skills are just horrible.

  • Laura

    Faraz: There is indeed bad music, just like there are bad films, bad games and bad people. To claim otherwise is absurd. Bad things exist, and Deuce’s album is one of them.

  • Jordan Wilcox

    You forgot to mention bad sites without credibility.

  • Jake

    The only reason these kids are crying about the album is because you gave it a negative review. If it was positive but in the same style they claim to be “unprofessional”, they’d be all over you and would agree with everything. And notice how most commenters are some of Deuce’s biggest fans, it’s them that’s being biased.

    This review was well-thought out and honest. I did not agree with a few points but in general it wasn’t bad. I did not like the album myself, I thought it was lyrically disgusting and wannabe-ish (see Help Me). The only good song on the record is America, which is practically a rip off of Hollywood Undead’s “Young” (listen to the guitars in the choruses), and it feels so out of place. This is supposed to be the “true sequel to Swan Songs” but it’s not even close to that. There are no rock songs and every song is either about getting laid or how his life “sucks”. It felt like he just threw in “America” to feel cool because it’s the only rock track on the record and the only one with a meaning different from getting laid or him being depressed. Not to mention that the whole “America is sick” thing is so overplayed.

    By the way, what’s your opinion on Hollywood Undead’s “American Tragedy”? The band took a more serious/mature approach to their music and overall just got better.

  • Jake

    Oops, in the first sentence ^ I meant to say “the only reason these kids are crying about the review” not album

  • Samantha

    This is by far the most amazing review i have read, keep up the good work, sir.

  • http://www.freakytrigger.co.uk/author/piratemoggy Hazel Robinson

    Hello Jake,

    American Tragedy is interesting; it’s not something I’d deliberately listen to and I haven’t heard all of it but I gave it a go on Spotify a few days after I wrote this review, just out of interest and without wanting to sound patronising, it’s a lot better than I would’ve expected after Swan Songs.

    The first song kind of reminded me of/felt quite influenced by southern groove metal (I did wonder if the title was a reference to Pantera) -they don’t have the heaviness or dexterity with volume/power yet but I thought it was interesting that they opened with that aesthetic; I think southern metal fits much better with rap/rock than the more electronic stuff that for whatever reason seems to be the default. Equally they’re genuinely funny in other places (like on Apologize). I think if they keep on with it, they can definitely be something with longevity and genuine interest- I wouldn’t have credited it from Swan Songs, I won’t deny but I don’t think American Tragedy is terrible (it’s not great, either and it’s much too long but not terrible) and from what I’ve heard there didn’t seem to be anything gross in the lyrics, which is always a massive plus.

    So yeah, I was surprised at the massive difference. I’m not ready to convert or curious to hear it again but I think they now have potential, which honestly I never would have considered before; it’s probably never going to be my first choice but I wouldn’t rule them out surprising me and I’ve eaten my words on bands (Good Charlotte, for instance, who I had a massive backpedal on a few years ago) before.

    (Having a flick through it again- I had forgotten that Bullet is kind of brilliant; if they do more self-conscious stuff like that they could be very good indeed)

  • Logan

    agreed 100% except for the Hollywood Undead parts, Deuce sucks

  • dsf

    Lol this album was complete fucking garbage.

  • Larry

    Anybody who likes this music, regardless if age, needs to be shot in the head and left for dead!!!!!!! Deuce is a douche!!!!!!!

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