Mushroomhead – XX (2001)

XX was the record that began my love affair with the bizarre world of Mushroomhead. It may be a re-issue of older material, which is presented here in various forms of remixed, remastered and completely re-recorded states, but to most if not all Mushroomhead fans outside of the USA, this was the first encounter.

My favourite band was Slipknot, so when I was 12 years old, surely you can understand why I gravitated towards bands such as Mushroomhead, Mudvayne and Motograter (the curse of the Ms!). What I was not prepared for though was the unique and bizarre density to Mushroomhead’s music. The lead single, “Solitaire / Unraveling” wasn’t “heavy” in the way that I was used to. Sure, it’s a chugging monstrosity, but the tracks are lead by haunting keys and synths, and a dual vocalist attack.

Its easy to write Mushroomhead off as a nu-metal version of Faith No More, especially considering they formed in 1993 and had perfected their keyboard-manic tracks on their self-titled from 1995. But, tracks such as “Bwomp”, “Never Let It Go”, “The Wrist”, “The New Cult King” and “Born Of Desire” really highlight the talent involved and the sheer songwriting chops of the earlier lineups.

This is why I get so angry and neckbeardy about later Mushroomhead – this melting pot of a band, with all these weird vibes and ideas, still somehow had this mainstream sensibility and accessibility to it. I thank them eternally for showing me different textures and moods (and for embedding a love of Twin Peaks in me subconsciously with all those samples). So when they would go on to record some of the most flaccid and uninspiring albums I have ever heard, it really felt to me like wasted potential.

On a positive note, this record defined the early 2000s for me and probably in a large part defines my music tastes and a lot of the more experimental directions I would later take when exploring, and for that I will always be thankful.