Oh, Crazy Town. The band that’s become the peak example of every negative excess of the turn-of-the-century wave of nu metal and rap-rock were best known for the hit single “Butterfly”, which didn’t really have any original instrumentation and relied mostly on a looped bridge they took from a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. The band’s apparent lack of rapping ability and near infamous live singing (see: a live television performance of “Drowning” in Brazil that went horribly wrong) meant they quickly became black sheep of both the nu metal and rap scene, and nobody was particularly keen to admit to liking them.
After reforming in 2007, the band had consistently attempted to record a new album and suffered from the death of DJ AM in 2009, as well as Shifty Shellshock’s repeated public problems with drug abuse resulting in a coma in 2012. Putting all this behind them and reverting to the core duo of Epic Mazur and Shifty, they entered the studio through 2013 and 2014 to set to work on the album at long last, naming it after their original group name: The Brimstone Sluggers. From the off, you can tell that the duo have decided to move to straight rap/alternative hip-hop and have brought in a large number of guest vocalists to round out the shift in sound. Opening with the moodier “Come Inside”, the lyrics seem to imply that the band will be covering more personal matters on this album, and it’s one of the early highlights. However, this doesn’t stay grown up for too long. The references to Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger and Robin Williams in “Born to Raise Hell” feel in very poor taste in the context of the song (which also includes contributions from the late DJ AM), while songs such as first single “Lemonface” and autotune driven “My Place” (originally released in 2010 for an aborted album) are just abysmal. Crazy Town are in their 40s now and to be rapping about the sort of things they are, you have to wonder if they’ve actually learned anything from their experiences.
It must be said that on the whole, the duo have improved massively in terms of their rapping ability and some of the flows they provide on this album (such as in the most rock-driven track “Backpack”) are among the best they’ve ever done. The music in “Light the Way” utilises heavy electronics and bass to full effect to create a somewhat heavy hip-hop song with a good deal of atmosphere provided by the electronics. Of course rap purists will still argue about the credibility of Epic and Shifty considering their past indiscretions, but they will have won over some of the rap crowd with this effort. There is a fair amount of shifting style and tone in this album, with party-driven tracks such as “Born to Raise Hell”, “Lemonface”, “Megatron” and “My Place” against moodier and more rock-driven songs like “Backpack” and “Come Inside” which sound somewhat akin to contemporary rap-rockers Hollywood Undead, but the most unusual has to be the reggae influenced instrumentation of “Ashes”, which features No Doubt’s Tom Dumont on guitar and vocals. The song feels very out of place in an already somewhat bipolar album and, while not nearly as immature as other tracks, just feels weak.
Overall, this album is a massive step up from the famously poor efforts of Crazy Town at the top of their game. The move to alternative hip-hop has benefitted them a great deal but there’s still a long way to go before they can rid themselves of their poor reputation. A lot of growing up still needs to be done lyrically, but they’re on the right track. The band promises a “heavy” EP to follow this which aims to return to the “Darkhorse” style, but if there’s one thing to be taken from this, it’s that CxT are much better suited to the direction “The Brimstone Sluggers” has taken them in.
Crazy Town’s new album “The Brimstone Sluggers” is out August 28 via Memban Media.