Sixx:AM – This Is Gonna Hurt
Record Label: Eleven Seven
Release Date: May 10 2011
Despite being a huge music fan, very rarely do I listen to almost an entire discography by a band/artist at once. The exception to this is CA band Sixx:AM, which is named after Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, along with the other members of Sixx:AM’s last names. My girlfriend recommended me to review the band’s debut album, The Heroin Diaries, because it’s one of her favorite albums. Amidst my search, I ended up coming across both of their records, debut The Heroin Diaries, and sophomore record This Is Gonna Hurt. I listened to them back to back, because I wanted to see what their progression was from both albums. I wasn’t surprised that were was some progression, but there are two main things that I noticed upon first listening to it. The first thing is that lead vocalist James Michael has gotten a lot better. On The Heroin Diaries, the thing I least enjoyed was his voice. Well, it was enjoyable, and it shined on a few songs, but it sounded rough around the edges. On this album, his voice sounds much more refined. The other thing I noticed was that the sound of the band has shifted more so to straightforward hard-rock and alternative metal, with a few songs switching it up in between. That’s not a bad thing, because it works for them. They do manage to keep things unique, and enjoyable throughout the record, so I wouldn’t call this a regression. The Heroin Diaries was a very interesting record, because there was a lot going on. The record was about an hour long, so that was plenty of time for everything to come across to the listener. This record is a bit shorter, but there’s not as much going on as the first album, minus a few songs. It’s also worth mentioning that this isn’t a concept record, so how do the lyrics hold up? Do Sixx’s lyrics still come across as hard hitting and powerful? Well, for the most part, yeah, they do. The songs do feel very cohesive with one another, but it’s not a concept record. There’s no central theme, but this record does flow nicely.
The record begins with the title track, and it’s a pretty straightforward hard-rock song with lyrics that are rather violent, considering the song/album’s title. It’s fun, it’s energetic, but other than that, there’s not much to take from that song. Other songs on the record are great, but for what it is, it’s an enjoyable song, and starts off the record nicely. It’s not a really deep and powerful song, but it’s a good song to get the record going. The more emotional songs come later, and these songs are just as powerful as every song on The Heroin Diaries, but they’re not about the same things. One of those songs comes in the form of second track “Lies of the Beautiful People.” Sixx has a fascination with the word “beautiful,” doesn’t he? In my review for debut record, The Heroin Diaries, I talk about first single “Life Is Beautiful” being an enjoyable song, but having rather cliché lyrics. Well, the same can be said for this song, too. The lyrics seem to be aimed at Hollywood and celebrities, who are only beautiful on the outside. And while this song covers it nicely, it’s still cliché, because I’ve heard this a million times. this song is enjoyable, and the lyrics come across well, but it’s quite cliché, because I’ve heard it a lot. The lyrics are powerful, in the sense that they do make a very valid point. Even a couple of years later, the lyrics are still relevant to the Western World, but it still doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.
It’s rather funny, because on The Heroin Diaries, I loved the lyrics, but didn’t really like Michael’s voice all that much. On this record, it’s kind of the opposite. The lyrics are still pretty solid, and a couple of tracks stand out a lot more, but they’re not as hard-hitting anymore. They’re not as personal, or dark, it’s basically a lot of clichéd topics that have already been covered by bands before them, and still are covered today. In all honesty, this record kind of suffers from something that most albums do – a lot of the songs are solid, but only a handful truly stand out. It has its moments, and while I did say the record is not a regression, it doesn’t quite beat The Heroin Diaries, either. It’s not a sophomore slump, by no means, but it doesn’t top that record for a few reasons. Regardless, there are a few moments here and there that do stand out, and one of them comes in the form of third track “Are You With Me.” Aside from being more of an alternative rock song, the song is Sixx’s attempt at a love song. It’s about Sixx speaking to someone about whether or not they’re going to stay with him, despite his troubled past. This song has enjoyable lyrics, and not to mention, this song has one heck of a catchy chorus. This record seems to have Sixx hone in really catchy hooks, which is great, because they work. In fact, the middle of the record is fantastic; out of those, though, there’s a couple that really stick out to me, which are fifth and seventh tracks “Sure Feels Right,” and “Smile.” Again, it’s because these are love songs. The lyrics are still meaningful and powerful, but on a different level than The Heroin Diaries. Anyway, the former song is one of the instrumentally strangest songs in the band’s discography, because it’s a pop-rock/alternative song, along with being the catchiest song on the record. The former is a five-minute track that’s even more slowed down, and it works, because it fits the lyrics that are being presented, which are merely about how someone makes Sixx smile. It’s a song I can relate to nicely, because it’s meant to be sweet, yet powerful. A guitar solo comes in towards the end, and while it sounds kind of cliché, it’s nice and doesn’t hinder the track at all.
The only other song that really has that effect on me is closing track “Skin.” This is easily the best song on the record, because it’s fantastic in every way; the lyrics are powerful and emotional, Michael’s vocals are the best I’ve heard them, and while the instrumentation is rather minimal, it works great. This song and “Smile” are the best tracks on the record, without a doubt. If anything, “Skin” seems to be the sequel to “Smile,” just because both songs seem to have the same kind of vibe to them. Even the lyrics are rather similar – “Smile” is all about how a woman makes Sixx smile, and how important she is to him, while “Skin” is about Sixx talking about a woman who’s absolutely beautiful, and wants people to see “the real her,” the person inside her skin. She may be covered in scars, but he still thinks she’s beautiful. Anyway, this song is most likely my favorite from their entire discography. It’s also the perfect closing track, too. It’s merely just Michael with a piano, and that’s what makes it work so well, because it ends exactly the opposite of how the record started.
All in all, this record holds up nicely as a follow-up to The Heroin Diaries. There are things I like about this record that I didn’t quite like about that record, and vice versa. I didn’t enjoy Michael’s vocals on Diaries, but I do enjoy them here. They’ve improved immensely, and they’re great. The one thing I don’t like on here is that most of the songs do sound quite similar to each other, so some of them kind of just fade away. This record isn’t quite as memorable as The Heroin Diaries was, and that’s due in part to the overall message of the album, as well as the overall instrumentation. As I mentioned, this record doesn’t have a central theme, and so the lyrics are not all connected. The record flows, but they’re not as powerful as they were on that album, either. Of course there are some songs that do hit that mark, but not all of them do. The overall instrumentation kind of hurts the record as well. It’s not awful, and they all play their instruments nicely, but their sound has kind of shifted into a straightforward hard-rock/alternative metal record, so expect plenty of guitar solos and more “aggressive” songs. There are some orchestral elements, so the variety is there, but it’s not as full fledged as The Heroin Diaries. Regardless, though, for what it is, it’s an enjoyable album. If this was my first impression with the band, I would’ve been quite impressed. It’s just The Heroin Diaries is a very powerful record, so because I heard that first, this record isn’t as hard-hitting in comparison. I do want to emphasize that this record is enjoyable, because there’s a lot going for it. The lyrics may not be as powerful, but they still are enjoyable. The instrumentation may have become a lot more straightforward, but it still works. This record may only have a couple songs that really stand out, but contrary to the album title, listening to the rest of the record won’t hurt.