What happens when the school bully grows up? Simple: job in telesales, bland house and bland partner, a life of comfortable mediocrity. But what about the bullied? Neurosis has a habit of lingering after the bruises have faded. Sometimes, if indulged, it never goes away at all.
And [a]Korn[/a]’s sixth album is an epic of indulgence. Not in the financial sense: unlike 2002’s ‘Untouchables’, best recalled for its alleged $3 million price tag than its actual music, this “back-to-basics” record were recorded in a mobile studio while the band were touring on last year’s Ozzfest. Rather, ‘Take A Look In The Mirror’ is indulgent in its sheer inability to see beyond its own tedious solipsism. Like the umpteenth midnight phone call from the needy friend, here, you can actually feel your reservoir of charity running dry.
Take lead-off single ‘Right Now’ – a funk-metal number cast in the mould of 1995’s ‘Faget’, [a]Korn[/a]’s pre-Columbine revenge-on-the-bullies parable. Where ‘Faget’ succeeded on the strength of frontman Jonathan Davis’ genuinely passionate vocal, here, he’s painting from an emotional palette that makes [a]Limp Bizkit[/a]’s fuck-shit-girls act look positively kaleidoscopic in hue. “Shut up!/ I can’t control myself/ I fucking hate you!” sings Jon. It’s cliché to invoke that whole multi-millionaire-says-feel-my-pain jibe, but when anger is this vague and unfocused, what else is there to say?
Musically, too, this is an exercise in sterile studio-rock. Meticulously Pro-Tooled, and built almost entirely around bassist Fieldy’s relentless, sludgy mid-range, it’s an approach that demonstrates little craft and even less actual feeling. Davis has a toot on his bagpipes at the beginning of ‘Let’s Do This Now’. If only for the sake of variety, you hope it’ll last. It doesn’t.
The ‘peak’ comes with a so-so mid-section, comprised of a couple of adequate gothy numbers (‘Did My Time’, ‘Everything I’ve Known’) and a collaboration with Nas, ‘Play Me’. Sure, with content like “Everybody’s my enemy/Telling me lies and it’s killing me” this is one of rap’s greatest debasing himself to [a]Korn[/a]’s level. But it rocks, in a Judgement Night-style, and as one of this record’s rare attempts to slip its generic noose, it deserves recognition.
But ultimately, the message here is that it’s alright to be a vindictive, self-obsessed fuck-up. Fine. Whatever. But the medium is bloated, played out, and steeped in self-parody. ‘Take A Look In The Mirror’ doesn’t just sound like a bad album, it sounds like a broken record. Guys, get the fuck over it.