The first time I heard FAKE? was a life-changing experience, not the kind that persuades you over your better judgment to cut and style your hair in homage to the band’s lead singer, trash your entire wardrobe in lieu of newer purchases, or even hang a ridiculous amount of posters on your wall so your glassy-eyed stare can reflect from the luster of the pictures, forcing you to prop your elbows on the bed and lean your cheeks into your defiant fists as you dream of a world where you, yourself, are unabashedly belting out lyrics into that microphone. No, I can’t say it was one of those life-changing experiences, but rather an experience that grabbed me by the shoulders, closed my eyes, and demanded I simply open my ears just a little bit wider to grasp the full scope and enormity of that which comprised FAKE?.

The first song that took on these qualities was “NEW SKIN.” This was the first song I came across and it helped in fully realizing the lyrical genius of Ken Lloyd. All I could do was sing along and nod emphatically, answering the question Lloyd never asked but hinted at merely by putting himself out on the market. I agreed with him whole-heartedly: Got to get some. Got to get it and I’m never gonna’ give it back. When I listened to more of the songs, I was astounded by the poetry of both the music and the lyrics, the English expertise that Lloyd lent to a high portion of their lyrics, an expertise that put bands like Linkin Park to shame and makes Mike Shinoda’s rap look like kindergarten folly accompanied by Beinnington’s angry recess whining. FAKE? brought to me one of the first songs I can truly claim as being sexy, and if you’ve ever really sat down and blared “DRIP,” you would understand. On the flip side, they had the ability to skip from erotic wordplay to maniacally accusatory anger that shakes, rattles, and finishes with a bitter emptiness; All alone we are.

However, I can’t forget to mention INORAN, the other half of FAKE?. When you put him into the equation, it’s no wonder this band is good; we now have the lyrics and intensity that once comprised OBLIVION DUST and the skill, talent, and experience of now-defunct LUNA SEA, not to mention INORAN’s own solo work (“I wish I had never met you” still sends chills up and down my spine like no other bitter break-up song can).

So you can imagine my disappointment and dread when I learned that INORAN left the band. Here was a band I had just discovered, that I was on the verge of obsession with, and they were splitting up. Bravely, Lloyd has taken the reins and continues FAKE? as a solo career, but even so, I was worried what it would sound like without INORAN. I knew that SONGS FROM BEELZEBUB would basically be Lloyd letting go; everything he wanted to put on a CD that INORAN held him back from would be present; every instrument or experimentation or musical preference he wanted to divulge would be paraded about like a very uninhibited teenage girl who just discovered miniskirts. I was reluctant to buy the CD, I was reluctant to even listen to it, but eventually, curiosity and the need for new FAKE? material won out. Maybe I could learn to love miniskirts.

Then again, this miniskirt was festooned with so much stereotypical North American house, it’s basically the item that looks exclusively appropriate on the rack rather than the human body. As soon as “$500” began I feared for my life. Suddenly, my ears were assaulted with “Let’s rock, y’all. Don’t stop y’all.” No. Oh god no. Lloyd then proceeds to collaborate rap and rock and throw all grammatical decency out the window as he repeats ad nauseaum “Put your hands up, put your hands up, put your hands up and show me where you love is at.” The remainder of the disc spins at the same speed, in fact, fresh off of the previous lyrical aural rape of stereotypical hip hop catcalls, we are warmly greeted once again by “C’mon everybody, put your hands in the air.” Not only am I offended, but we’re only on the second song and my arms are already exhausted.

And so Lloyd stumbles drunkenly in the dark to finish the album. There are repetitive shouts and words that betray everything I just waxed beautiful on in the introductory paragraphs. There is more synth than I can handle or would like to handle in FAKE?. “AUTOMATIC” is catchy but wears out its welcome. “BUS STOP #74” isn’t so much a song as it is a short story set to a beat and sound effects. “BABY BLUE AND THE TWO HEADED MONSTER” can be applauded for its attempt at innovation by taking on a distinctive doo-whop flavor reminiscent of pre-World War II romance, but falls flat when Lloyd’s voice sounds mixed, split, and served as a slow-motion cocktail; 2% genuine alcohol, 98% all filler flavor. And just when you think it couldn’t get worse, someone, presumably an engineer or producer working on the album, turns the dial, looking for something good. The result is a brief interlude into guitar, drum, and screamo chaos, which switches just as quickly back into the original slow tempo, leaving the listener wondering if they suffered a minor car accident with a bump to the head, or are merely going crazy. By the end of the album, you’re only too glad it’s finally “THE END.”

To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement. I am not only disappointed, I am left wishing that another album was not forthcoming in November because there are only so many head-on collisions you can suffer in one year. Lloyd left FAKE? and he took the genuine spark that fueled the music with him.

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