METHODS OF MAYHEM – A Public Disservice Announcement

methodsIn 1999, during his time away from the Mötley Crüe drum stool, Tommy Lee embarked upon a new project, Methods of Mayhem, with rapper TiLo. Their 1999 self-titled album combined dance, rap and a healthy dose of nu-metal and was a world away from any of Lee’s previous work. Featuring a host of guest performers, including Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst, L’il Kim, Snoop Dog, The Crystal Method and George Clinton, the album’s fusion of styles could be best compared to Limp Bizkit, though the end result was far better than anything Fred Durst and his band of cronies had released by that point. Or, in fact, ever. Naturally, the reviews were mixed, as were the responses from Crüe fans.

A decade later (after various Crüe albums and tours, and a couple of solo releases)
Tommy Lee revived the Methods of Mayhem project. In place of TiLo and a long guest list of famous vocalists, Lee takes on most vocal duties himself. The album isn’t without outside contributions, though, since Tommy Lee had a rather resourceful idea: he asked unknown musicians to submit work to his website – from which he would choose the best bits as the basis for the album’s songs. In addition to the pieces of music selected from over 10,000 submissions, ex-Bone Machine guitarist John Allen III (aka J3) assumes the role as Tommy’s main collaborator. With J3’s 80s rock and glam metal roots, he provides more musical clout and melody than the original pairing of Lee and TiLo, which in turn makes ‘A Public Disservice Announcement’ a surprisingly varied outing – and one which, for the most part, doesn’t sound much like Methods as you remember them on their debut.

The opening track, ‘Drunk Uncle Pete’ would’ve been enough for me to stop listening almost straight away, had I not had faith that the album had to feature at least a few great tracks. Imagine something that sounds like ‘In Too Deep’ by Sum 41 with more electronic fuzziness and a choir of teenagers, and that’d be a close approximation of its evilness. How it made the final tracklisting is a mystery in itself, but to open the album with it is just insane. One of the only “typical” sounding Methods tracks, ‘Fight Song’ (released as the album’s first single) redresses the balance, with its sledgehammer guitar riffs and aggressive vocal (part shouting, part rap influenced – though no actual rap this time around). This has the trademark Methods sound which was slapped across the debut; elements of nu-metal band Snot, P.O.D. and early Powerman 5000 colliding with Tommy Lee’s unrelenting attitude make this impossible to ignore, whether you like it or not. ‘I Really Want You’ hits upon a similar groove, but it much lighter in tone, with Lee delivering a fairly melodic vocal. The electronic parts are among the albums best – each of the musical elements unfussy and suitably crunchy.

‘Time Bomb’ is a track which melds alt-rock and lightweight pop-punk, but does so with plenty of charm. J3’s guitars are fuzzy and the vocals are subject to studio trickery, but for those of you who like your hooks a little more traditional, this should be far more enjoyable than anything Methods have offered you previously. Between the pre-programmed elements and slight distortion, J3’s chorus is like a shining beacon (surely a hit in the hands of any number of made-for-music-television pop-punk outfits); some guitar playing here leans towards the more traditional too, with a (multi-tracked) twin lead solo.

The acoustic guitars overlaid with subtle electric parts as featured on ‘Blame’ provide a huge musical curve-ball for Methods. I expect J3 has had an influence, once again, and particularly so during the track’s slightly Beatle-y moments. Its “modern rock” sound – the kind which became unavoidable on US radio throughout the 00’s – is closer to Lifehouse or The Calling than anything you’d associate with Tommy Lee, but even so, his vocal is strong here and he sounds incredibly comfortable in this musically mature role. With a very gentle verse – a hushed vocal set against an almost mechanical arrangement, ‘Louder’ is another of the album’s stand out numbers. In terms of feeling, again, it shares more in common with the soft end of alternative rock than it does with the angry metal of old school Methods. According to Lee, the song is about those dreams you have where you try and scream but all you hear is silence. In an attempt to recreate the unnatural feeling of this, all the vocals have been put through various effects – not too far short of autotune abuse – but, rather surprisingly, this doesn’t detract from the end result.

Bordering on novelty, ‘Party Instructions’ lumbers around for nearly five minutes in the style of early Daft Punk, its electronic loops not really going anywhere. A heavily treated, spoken vocal delivers the instructions like some kind of motivational speaker. An occasional female vocal in an r ‘n’ b style doesn’t help matters. As such, this is a track you’ll probably skip after two or three plays – which, I suppose is good odds compared to ‘Drunk Uncle Pete’.

‘All I Wanna Do’ marries r ‘n’ b style beats with hard electronica and is certainly this album’s answer to ‘Get Naked’ (the debut’s duet with L’il Kim). None of Tommy’s sweatiness comes anywhere close to Kim’s vulgarity, but he does his best to push the buttons of the anti-misogynists. Also featuring a healthy dose of electronic styles, ‘Back To Before’ screams radio play. Having more in common with a band like The Killers or Head Automatica than Methods of Mayhem, it’s another of the album’s big surprises, matching a danceable electronic arrangement with treated vocals and an alt-pop chorus. ‘Only One’ is a bit of a mish-mash; it has a vocal which on the quiet moments occasionally slips into something resembling ‘So Fine’ by Guns N’ Roses (unintentionally, I’m sure) while its heavier moments feel rather laboured. The guitar style has presence, but aside from slabs of sound, doesn’t really achieve anything. A keyboard part occasionally provides interest among the sludge, but it’s very underused. If anything, most of this could have been tempered by a chorus of some sort.

Those approaching this album as a follow up to the 1999 disc may find themselves disappointed, at least at first. A couple of songs sound like the original Methods – which should please old fans – but in relation to the rest of this album, they certainly feel like lip-service to the past. With its aspects of light and shade, this album has far more in common, perhaps, with parts of Tommy Lee’s solo outing ‘Never a Dull Moment’ than previous Methods recordings. This may have a great deal to do with changing times – after all, if Tommy Lee were to release a carbon copy of the Methods debut, this disc would sound a decade out of date.

October 2010