Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets to my Downfall
Machine Gun Kelly is primarily a Rap, Hip Hop artist, gaining popularity through songs such as Candy and his Eminem dis track, Rap Devil. However, the man is a known rock fan, starring as Tommy Lee in the Mötley Crüe biopic, The Dirt, being a prime example of that fact. So, when I heard about the man having released a ‘pop punk’ album a few weeks ago, I felt like I just had to check it out and review it. Ladies and gentlemen, of course, this is that review.
Kicking things off in a surprisingly slow manner is Title Track. Don’t get me wrong, it already feels more pop punky than his other stuff, but it was a clean, almost acoustic guitar tone, not the grungy sound you’d expect to open a punk album with a punch. I have to admit, his voice has never done much for me. He always sounds bored and uninterested and definitely auto tuned, but it kind of fits pretty well here with the simple backing. The real pop punk kicks in after the first verse, a huge distorted guitar tone and great sounding drums. The added ‘yeah yeah yeahs’ in there added a bunch too, really adding to the clear feel of the song that he was going for. The chorus feels a little weak but it is very in keeping with the style of music that he is emulating with this song. The first chorus does come around the middle mark of the song, though, which does feel weird. Being such a fan of pop punk, I know how simple and similar the song structures are, so having a lot of this album go verse, chorus, verse, chorus, end really threw me off. I’m not saying having a more hip hop song structure is a bad thing at all, but it would have been nice to have heard a bridge or even a solo in here at some point.
Kiss Kiss follows and, honestly, has more of an indie feel to it than a pop punk one. The riff was pretty decent, but it definitely reminds me of modern American indie, again not that that is a bad thing. An okay verse over the top of the riff and the chorus is catchy, if a little bit bland. This song at least is one of the few that breaks the pattern I was just talking about; we do get a bridge and a third chorus afterwards which was a nice addition. It just makes a song sound more complete when it has something extra and has a final chorus instead of just petering out after the second one. Not quite as good as the first song in my opinion but that is probably down to personal preference, I’m not the biggest fan of indie music.
Drunk Face opens straight away with MGK’s vocals over the top of a beautiful sounding clean guitar tone. The drum track kicks in soon after and this immediately feels closer to one of his older songs than the other two did. I have to admit it immediately put me off a little bit. His droning voice over simple guitars and electronically made drum sounds is not my idea of a good time. Although, I have to admit the chorus that the song opens with is damn catchy. However, having said that, the lyrics so far on this whole album have just made me cringe. I miss when rappers used to talk about real issues and have some anger and balls, not depressingly talk about getting drunk and taking drugs constantly. I know this review has seemed less than positive so far, but I am actually enjoying this album so far, I promise! The closing seconds of this song when he multi-tracks his vocals massively reminded me of Blink-182, so points for that, I guess!
Bloody Valentine, by the look of things, is the only single from the album so far. It again starts like a slow indie song, clean guitars and a simple drumbeat for MGK to sing over. The chorus is the best and catchiest of the whole album so far, though. It’s nice to have some dynamics and depth to this song, and the music behind the chorus gets more open and more full sounding, making it seem all the catchier. It definitely feels like that was what the other songs have missed so far, the music is great but there’s really not too much in terms of change in each song, they all stay at the same level (bar the beginning of the first song). This was at least a good step in the right direction. While slower than the first song, this is by far my favourite of the album so far. It’s a love song, a ballad, and the music behind his vocals really reflect that well. And it’s the first lyrics I haven’t actively cringed at, so win win.
Forget Me Too is the first song on the album to feature a guest act, this one being recorded with pop artist Halsey. It again opens with MGK’s vocals before dropping into a decent little guitar riff that gives off real Paramore vibes (more on that later). I loved this from the start, after three slower, indier songs we’re finally back to the pop punk again. A faster paced, guitar driven song is exactly what this album needed at this point to bring the energy and mood back up. The chorus opens back up in a big way, like the song before, and sounds massive. Unfortunately, the second verse is where Halsey comes in. While not a bad singer by any means, she sounds like she is doing her best Hayley Williams impression throughout this and it just comes across as kind of forced and fake. It pulled me out of the song a little too much, and distracted me away from the punky bass and drum line that accented the second verse so well. However, after complaining about her voice, when they both harmonise with each other for the last chorus, the both actually complement each other really well, it sounds awesome. The song is cut short just a little bit, too, as it just ends abruptly after the last chorus, no hint of an outro.
All I Know is up next, this time featuring guest vocals from rapper Trippie Redd. However, it is at this point that I have begun to encounter the same issue that I had with Deftones’ ‘Ohms’. There just isn’t enough variety on this album for me to do a chronological song for song evaluation of the thing. Not one that is in any way detailed, anyway. So, much like the Deftones album, I shall instead just pick out a few key talking points I found throughout the rest of the album. For this song, a straight up MGK hip hop song, while it was a little boring and not to my tastes, Trippie Redd at least sounded good here.
Lonely is an emotional, beautiful ballad. A tribute to the close relatives and loved ones someone has lost during their days is always going to be a depressing song, but it was handled surprisingly well here, the emotion apparent in Kelly’s voice and lyrics without being so apparent and overpowering that it loses its meaning and point a little. A huge highlight of the album, in my opinion.
WWIII and Concert for Aliens are the two most pop punk songs on the album, easily. WWIII is only a minute and is maybe the best song on the album, just straight up punk from start to finish. And the fact that Concert for Aliens has even a hint of a guitar solo lands it on the highlights list for that simple fact alone. The chorus is pretty catchy and chanty, too, something that would be pretty enjoyable and fun to see and join in with live.
Both of the other two guests, Blackbear and Iann Dior, sound so similar to MGK that, if I just had their songs on in the background instead of really listening to them, I most likely wouldn’t even realise they were different artists. I’ve never heard of either of them before so their own music might be good, but I don’t see much point in having guests on a song that adds almost nothing to the track itself. It just means more royalties to hand out to different people.
The Interludes, Kevin and Barracuda and Banyan Tree, are a mixed bag. While the latter is a kind of beautiful love note to his current partner, the former feels like a cheap rip-off of the Paul skits on Eminem’s early albums, interesting given that he was the one who called out Eminem for the rap battle just a couple of years ago.
The final point I wanted to make was just how short these songs are. I know that MGK is primarily a pop artist, but barely any of this album went above the three minute mark, and not a single one got anywhere close to four. While there is definitely no issue with short songs, there has been one too many instances while listening to this album (and writing this review, even) where I have criticised a song having too basic a formula or missing parts that could have added a lot or even just ended far too soon. Not every song has to be a long, epic number, but when something sounds great and is going well, don’t suddenly cut it off and end it right there, it leaves a sour taste in the listener’s mouth.
Overall, I enjoyed this album a lot more than I thought I would. In fact, I enjoy it a lot more now after a few spins than I did on my first listen. It is definitely a grower. While it is still mostly not my usual taste in music, one or two of the heavier, pop punkier ones have made it onto my playlist. I just wish he had gone fully into the genre, like I had come into it expecting he had, but I clearly brought too much into the media hype before checking it out for myself. If you like modern hip hop or are a fan of Kelly already, you’ll love this. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t be opposed at all to having this album on in the background whenever I wanted some music on!
This review was written by Joe Griffiths.
Besides being a Journalist, with a passion for music and being a musician himself. When he has free time, he also attends music events himself. Joe is also an author and you can check out his page, here at this link https://