19 October, 2018 / New York City, New York, United States
Since leaving school, I’ve tried to live by the “no guilty pleasures” principle when it comes to music, and I would encourage everyone to do the same. Most of my friends and work colleagues have heard me gush more than once over Carly Rae Jepsen’s E•MO•TION. I will go on record as saying that “Welcome to the Black Parade” is one of the greatest rock anthems of the 2000s. I have listened to “Girls” by beloved Norwegian pop duo Marcus & Martinus more times than I care to divulge (kidding—it’s at least a hundred times).
And while I don’t look back quite as fondly on every artist I loved as a teenager, there are still some musical cornerstones of my adolescence that I can enjoy today in moderation, like Weird Al or Bad Religion, and even Escape the Fate’s debut album if I pretend like Ronnie Radke isn’t a total asshole for 40 minutes.
The only thing stopping me from counting Mindless Self Indulgence as one of those artists is the fact that I’ve never really stopped loving their work. Back in 2009 I could blame my love of albums like if and Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy on the foibles of childhood naïvete, but these days I just love those albums because, well, they’re enjoyable to me.
Over the years, Mindless Self Indulgence have accrued a litany of genre tags. Electropunk. Crunkcore. Industrial jungle pussy punk. They’re definitely a band that takes pride in not conforming to any one sound or idea, and the same can be said for the lyrical content of their music, which can be pretty transgressive.
I’m sure this will be an immediate turn-off for those who have thought about listening to MSI in 2018, and I can certainly understand that. Even if you’re not personally offended by the band’s lyrics, their provocative approach to songwriting can quickly come across as cheap or desperate.
I don’t stand behind this behaviour either, but I do still stand behind the heavy beats and the rowdy choruses all throughout MSI’s discography.
For those who are confused as to why any of this information is relevant to this review, EURINGER is the new solo venture by Mindless Self Indulgence frontman James Euringer, a.k.a. Jimmy Urine. Considering I’ve been riding with the band up until now, it wasn’t difficult to convince me to check this project out.
My curiosity was piqued even further when I saw the track listing on MSI’s Bandcamp page, along with a description of the album:
EURINGER is a counter-culture, surreal, psychedelic, art house, avant-garde, possibly posthumous concept project from Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence fame. Featuring guest vocals from Grimes, Serj Tankian (System Of A Down), Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance) and Chantal Claret – and also staring Jimmy’s Mom and Dad for good measure! – the record is one long song/musical/concerto, as if an underground movie was made for your ears. “I wanted it to sound as if Depeche Mode hired J. Dilla and DJ Premier to drop loops while Frank Zappa produced, and then I came in and shit all over it,” said Jimmy.
— EURINGER, Bandcamp
An hour long Jimmy Urine concept album starring Serj Tankian, Grimes, and Gerard Way? My inner 13-year-old was ready to spontaneously combust with angst. I wasn’t expecting any sort of masterpiece from this project, but I was sure it would be a whole lot of brain-dead fun.
There are a few stark differences between this album and what you tend to find on a Mindless Self Indulgence album. For one, the production on EURINGER sounds a lot more intricate and meticulously assembled, which is a positive. The tracks here flow seamlessly into one another in an attempt to cobble together some kind of overarching story. EURINGER is also far less fun.
What Mindless Self Indulgence lacked in taste, they more than made up for with their sharp songwriting and inimitable personality. Here, I guess without the rest of the band Jimmy has his hands too full to really excel in any one facet, and as a result most of the songs here fail to take off.
I can always appreciate when someone in a band wants to go solo due to artistic differences, but I’m not entirely sure what Jimmy is achieving here that he couldn’t have done with MSI. The instrumental palette is mostly the same, albeit a little more dense. The subject matter hasn’t gotten any more intelligent.
That isn’t for lack of trying, though. Jimmy has updated his countercultural edge to the 2018 climate, which is where tracks like “Problematic” and the “Trigger Warning” prelude come into play.
“Trigger Warning” features the simulated voice of a little girl warning the listener of subject matters on this album that are simply too disturbing, and could potentially be conducive to “intellectual growth”. She lists off a series off topics, ranging from incest to child abuse to furry sex to Nazi paraphernalia.
She also cites synthesisers as another example, which is a kind of funny gag until you hear some of the instrumental choices here.
The song “Problematic” is slightly more poignant as Jimmy rags on cancel culture, suggesting that the people who call out artists for being problematic will still enjoy the work of those same bad people when nobody else is watching. I do think this is an interesting point to make, but Jimmy approaches it from such a tone-deaf place that I don’t really want to give him too much credit for it.
If this were a Mindless Self Indulgence review I probably wouldn’t spend this much time talking about the politics of the album, because it would be easier to push them to the back of my mind. The difference here is that Jimmy is so convinced his input has any sort of value that he makes it almost impossible to ignore. After hearing tracks like “Piece of Me” and “Sailor in a Life Boat”, I can’t help but think that Jimmy genuinely believes that he’s some sort of martyr or intellectual pioneer by talking about these issues. The truth is, if I want to listen to a 50-year-old’s takes on them dang ol’ social justice warriors, I’ll scroll through my Facebook feed.
I’ll admit I’ve not really tried to make heads or tails of whatever concept Jimmy’s going for here, but I don’t think I’ll be missing out on much. The “Trigger Warning” prologue is immediately followed by the song “If It Ain’t You Today It Will Be You Tomorrow” featuring Serj Tankian, and is apparently a reference to the famous Martin Niemöller poem where he criticises the lack of opposition that let the Nazis rise to power. Considering this is following the track where Jimmy lambasts those who speak out against discrimination, something tells me he hasn’t put much thought into this concept either.
Serj’s contributions to the song are solid—he does his usual thing of spouting politically charged poetry over some urgent blasts of electronics. You can tell Serj wrote his own lines once Jimmy comes in with such gold as “With a flick of a wrist, I turn you into a bitch.” As much as I love the Serj Tankian ASMR in the second half of this cut, the whole thing feels like such a hodgepodge that I struggle to get much out of it.
“Sailor in a Life Boat” with Gerard Way is much more cohesive, but it’s another case where I find the guest feature to be the most enjoyable part of the song. Way’s chorus sounds like peak My Chemical Romance, but even he can’t save this album from itself, apparently.
The tracks where Jimmy is left to his own devices, then, are much harder to swallow. “That’s How Jimmy Gets Down” sounds like Beastie Boys updated with its slimy old-school machismo and bars as questionable as “My inner child is a prostitute”. The pattering synths on “Random EMO Top Line Generator” increase in tempo exponentially until the whole track basically turns into speedcore. Meanwhile “Do You Kiss Your Mama with That Mouth?” reminds me of modern Eminem with the obvious punchline being yes, I do kiss your mama with this mouth.
There are some diamonds in all of this rough, though. “Fuck Everything” with Jimmy’s wife Chantal Claret is a definite highlight for me; the joint lead vocals sound great, and it’s actually pretty funny how the mini skits play into the opening lyrics of the verses.
Grimes’ feature on “The Medicine Does Not Control Me” is absolutely gorgeous, too, down to her distant wails lingering in the background. I can even just about enjoy Jimmy’s contributions to the track as he sings about a topic near and dear to his heart: prescription drugs.
“Be Afraid of Who You Are” is maybe the only song here where Jimmy really manages to hold his own, but I love the lyrical themes here which I read as an empowerment anthem for troubled kids and social rejects.
Clever girl, clever boy
Bloody nose, make some noise
You’re the bomb, I can tell
Happy days, gone again
Diagnosis, closing in
You are your worst enemy
Simple things, hard to see
Better days, basket case
Welcome to the monkey house
— Jimmy Urine, “Be Afraid of Who You Are”
I even love the “Internal Organs” interlude cut, which could feel right at home on a Gang Gang Dance album. My one major issue with this track is that it only feels like a transitional moment into one of the worst songs on the album: a cover of “Wuthering Heights”.
That’s right, Jimmy sees fit to include a rendition of the legendary Kate Bush song, falsetto and all. Jesus Christ, wasn’t this supposed to be a concept album? There’s not even any artistic licence taken here; it’s literally just Jimmy doing karaoke over an electronic backdrop.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, there’s also a cover of the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes”. Yeah. An actual, godforsaken synthpop cover. I swear, I played this song to my friend and within the first 10 seconds I broke down cry-laughing. And it manages to get worse still as the instrumental pulls back until it’s just several layers of Jimmy scream-singing all of Michael McDonald’s parts at once.
So, yeah, I dunno. I can’t even praise this album for being enjoyably bad for the most part. It mainly just dithers between being insipid and painfully obtuse. Even the best songs on this album are like pale imitations of what Jimmy was already doing with Mindless Self Indulgence. Hell, maybe the best material here could make a halfway decent MSI EP, because there sure aren’t enough ideas to warrant a whole new project.
I guess being part of a band literally named Mindless Self Indulgence just wasn’t masturbatory enough.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Be Afraid of Who You Are / Internal Organs / Fuck Everything / The Medicine Does Not Control Me