Machine Gun Kelly: Mainstream Sold-Out Album Review
It’s been four years since A$AP Ferg declared Lil Uzi Vert “the new Blink-182,” and three years since Blink ditched his guitars for synths. But former rapper Machine Gun Kelly, who won “Favorite Rock Artist” at last year’s American Music Awards, considers himself a savior of pop-punk in its traditional sense: “He still needed a face,” he told Spin. If the 2020s Tickets for my fall was a love letter to its mall-punk predecessors, consumer sale is a bittersweet kiss, too busy defending himself against the gatekeepers of the genre to care about the hooks and heartache that made his previous effort so surprisingly slick.
Machine Gun Kelly, born Colson Baker, is wading through a much more crowded pool than the one he left in 2020. He tapped Travis Barker to produce Fall before the Blink-182 drummer became a professional studded-belt whisperer, adding a jagged edge to the music of disgruntled Hype House e-boys. Set amongst his fellow Barker-ians, most of whom were in short pants when Blink first broke up in 2005, it’s understandable why the 31-year-old might feel a sense of ownership over the Zoomer-led Hot Topic revival. Barker joins MGK again on consumer sale, but this time, their couple seems less inspired and more paranoid. These songs seem to be cut and pasted from a bag of teenage clichés and recycled three-chord solos; the eyeliner and lip ring look even more like a costume when Baker opens the record with an impassioned “Why is it so hard to live?”
MGK and Barker aren’t exactly known for their subtlety, but their latest collab is painfully prosaic to the point of meaninglessness. consumer sale never bothers to show you how twisted and broken Machine Gun Kelly is when she could just tell you, “I’m damaged,” he laments on “5150.” “make up sex”, featuring blackbear, is somehow more hollow than their collab on Tickets for my fall, mixing crude sexual references with lyrics such as “I like chaos/I like toxic/I like wreckage/I like falling.” MGK delves into the worst tendencies of his Victory Records influences, blaming his rampant narcissism and misogyny on his exes and vices.
Sure, there are hints of deeper trauma — dead fathers, broken homes, forbidden love — but much of the album is rendered cartoonishly via walks through graveyards and vague references to mental illness. “born with horns” and “god save me” sound so skinny that they approach parody, like “Emo Kid” without the slightest irony. “emo girl,” a duet with fellow pop-punk revivalist Willow Smith, feels both too serious to laugh at herself and too absurd to be taken seriously. It doesn’t do much to transcend its tropes and despite Smith’s admirably jovial delivery, it still lands as a TikTok-ready meme. And while Baker’s vocal mannerisms — “ums” and “yeah” added for emphasis — are catchy in spite of themselves, as a guitarist he can barely bother with an original melody. “maybe” includes the requisite “Misery Business” tween and a metalcore verse from Bring Me the Horizon’s Oli Sykes for good measure. The distorted riff on “papercuts” sounds suspiciously like Green Day, but perhaps without the lure of controversy, Machine Gun Kelly didn’t feel the need to give them the same credit.