It’s ironic that, for a movement supposedly representing the collapsing of genre boundaries in alternative music, a lot of the output from nu-gen artists has been depressingly limited. Seldom has it encompassed more than flat fragments of pop, punk and electronic finish, all of which is tied together by a performative edginess that’s led to more homogeneity than the individuality supposedly extolled. In the case of Kid Bookie, you’d hope for a bit more from an artist with a larger body of work than many of his peers, but it’s unfortunately averaged out to little different. The rap-rock / nu-metal train he’s been on hasn’t necessarily produced more fruitful or engaging output overall; even a surprising kinship with Corey Taylor, while aiding his profile significantly, hasn’t been that much of a creative boon.
That said, there’s a certain amount of Mass Hysteria to grapple with, not least because it simultaneously reinforces Kid Bookie’s standing among nu-gen artists as a slightly different flavour, while also showcasing how he’s beholden to a different but equally present set of limitations. He’s a more focused artist, but that can narrow the path and make it easier to stumble. That’s where Mass Hysteria ultimately lands, but also in a position where there’s definitely quality and something mildly interesting to be found, especially among a scene where that can frequently be scant.
A lot of the praise does tend to go more towards Kid Bookie himself, as a competent rapper with fast, assertive flows that at least tessellate with the hard-edged image artists like this want to conjure. Significantly less of it feels like hollow bluster, which is definitely a good thing when it comes to presenting a persona that feels genuine like this is. Granted, a line like “Why don’t Kerrang! and that show me love enough / When I do everything a label fucking does?” on the title track reads more in the line of pettiness confused for confrontation, though it’s not as if that was uncommon for nu-metal back in the day either. That seems to be the energy that Kid Bookie is channelling most of all, filled with swagger and bluster that he can sell pretty effectively, even if there’s not much depth to it.
There doesn’t really need to be, not with music as reliant on doling out aggression and force as this, but on what’s already a pretty slimmed release, Mass Hysteria just doesn’t have much of a range to impress within. It’s appropriate that the track easily crafting the longest shelf life for itself is Say A Word, the closer that ventures into emo-rap murk before building into a much more stable alt-metal crescendo. It’s pretty much the only track on Mass Hysteria that feels as though it’s operating with multiple ideas; even with guest spots from Corey Taylor and Ziey Kizzy on Game and Let It Ring respectively, they tend to sink back within the rigid boundaries rather than act as new sources of flair.
At least within those boundaries, there’s a kernel of inspiration when it comes to accurately replicating the nu-metal style. Aside from Here We Go and how glazed over walls of nothingness the instrumental can feel, Mass Hysteria pulls off the brand of heaviness it’s courting with decent skill, i.e. pulling from the right sources and remaking them fairly well. The riffs are unmistakably Korn in nature with how emphasised the serrated edges are, and filled out with some denser bass and all-purpose hip-hop beats to keep on its contemporary wavelength. It’s never the most innovative sound in the world (or really, even all that open to it), but it’s hard to deny that it does work, particularly when the right amount of metal thunder and grim, industrial fire coalesce on All The Same or the title track.
When it works, it’s generally alright. Never transcendent or spellbinding—which, let’s be honest, is probably what was being aimed for—but it’s not bad. Perhaps that’s a fairly anticlimactic conclusion to draw from an artist currently among those being dubbed ‘alternative music’s most exciting new wave’, but to buy into that hype would probably be excessively disingenuous. No, Kid Bookie isn’t that exciting, but that’s not saying he doesn’t have the capacity to be. If anything, now is the best time to exercise that, while he does have that spotlight and freedom to blaze the trail for himself, and fully make the jump into something really cool. As it stands right now, he and the coterie of others in his boat are holding back too much to fill out the hype already awarded to them, and that’s what needs to be addressed the soonest.
For fans of: Korn, Cassyette, Bob Vylan
‘Mass Hysteria’ by Kid Bookie is released on 7th October on Marshall Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall