Imagine, if you will, Korn salsa. Terrible pun, but as the opening strains of the MTV Unplugged version of “Blind” fill the air, one can only giggle at the poor choice in style given the band’s nomenclature.
If the premise itself sounds bad, the execution isn’t much better. It seems Korn believed all of their songs would sound great with a tribal feel, something which rarely works stylistically and quickly becomes tedious. “Got the Life” and “Hollow Life” sound simply wretched without electricity to back them up, and Jonathan Davis’ nasal whine is painful to hear when not surrounded by an appropriately fuzzed-out backdrop. And let’s not start about any time Davis opens his mouth to speak — when he’s sending out a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” to all the kids who got picked on and talks about how much it helped him get through awkward times, it’s like listening to your father trying to relate to you as you stumble through puberty. No thanks.
The first single, “Freak on a Leash” is a duet with Amy Lee of Evanescence. While the meshing of pretty-voice/twanging-wail may have sounded good in theory to someone, combining this with a song which contains the line, “A cheap f*ck for me to lay” could never, ever work. Surprisingly, the highlight of the album appears when the Cure steps up to the mic; Robert Smith duets on the hybrid “Make Me Bad/Inbetween Days” and makes it work quite well. Unfortunately, the rest of the disc ranges from uneven to boring to unlistenable. Not only is it bland, but Korn’s music simply does not work in this setting, period. Korn is an aggressive, angry band with flailing energy. One can’t translate this to piano, violin, and acoustic guitar. The best they could have hoped for is some sort of deranged zydeco.
It’s painful to watch Korn when they stumble, but they’ve stumbled so many times over the course of their career that this fits right in with their cycle, albeit at the utmost trainwreck level. MTV Unplugged makes Life Is Peachy look like Grammy material. And Robert Smith, bless his soul, couldn’t save this sinking ship if he brought the entire Coast Guard along with him.