Oliver Tree – ‘Ugly Is Beautiful’ review: more than just a piss-taking internet troll

Out of ‘retirement’, the US meme machine’s years-in-the-making debut combines irony, humour and unexpectedly deep lyricism to prove the digital rockstar's talents lie far beyond the remit of mere ‘internet troll’

A retirement, Taken-style hostage video and perception-skewing perfume advert are probably not how most artists would promote their debut album. But Oliver Tree is far from ordinary. Since going viral on Vine in 2015 (RIP) the eccentric scooter-loving bowlcut-sporting creation has signed a major label record deal, racked up 100 million views on his self-directed music videos and made an unforgettable wig-losing TV debut on The Late Late Show.

Injecting humour into everything he does while offering a surrealist escape from the mundane everyday – it’s easy to see how Tree’s outlandishness has made him the digital age’s definitive rockstar. It’s a role he’s happy to play on the aptly-titled moshpit-inducing ‘Ugly Is Beautiful’ but, beyond the fuzzy guitars and old-school hip-hop beats, Tree’s thought-provoking narrative – which tackles depression, loneliness, commercialism, bullying and ignoring haters – proves he’s more than a piss-taking internet troll.

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Frenetic opener ‘Me Myself and I’ kickstarts the album as pop-punk riffs overpower his anxious outcast thoughts. The identity-conscious lyrics of ‘1993’ – “don’t pretend you’re someone else, why can’t you just be yourself?” – result in the demoralising realisation that “it was never enough at all”.

On ‘Cash Machine’, Tree convincingly debunks meaningless materialism – “smile, show your golden teeth, that’s how you cover up your cavities” – while succinctly psycho-analysing an entire age group who apparently splash their hard-earned cash on whatever is on-trend to momentarily fill a never-ending void.

‘Joke’s On You!’ is a stark dissection of how easily negative comments can lead a person to slide into a state of self-hate: “I’m close to the edge, people tell me I should jump”, he shouts. ‘Again & Again’ puts a comparatively balanced spin on things, encouraging “keep your head up” even when the world feels like it’s closing in.

On ‘Waste Of Time’, Tree dismantles the conflicting ideologies taught throughout school about whether it’s best to “fit in” or “stick out”, ending with an anthemic mantra-like chant. ‘Jerk’ becomes an anti-bullying anthem-in-waiting as he relatably admits “I’m sick of feeling so fucking lonely” before angrily setting everything ablaze on explosive finale ‘I’m Gone’.

With ‘Ugly Is Beautiful’, Oliver Tree just about silences his credibility critics by delivering wall-to-wall pop-rock ragers while encouraging fans to be unashamedly themselves, and having a ball doing so.

Details

  • Release date: July 17
  • Record label: Atlantic Records
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