Monday, September 3, 2007

Sixx AM- The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack

In 1987, Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx died of a heroin overdose. On a particularly decadent night out with members of Guns n’ Roses and RATT in tow, Sixx let a dealer inject him with a massive dose of the deadly narcotic. Within seconds, he was turning blue and having trouble breathing. Eventually his heart stopped and he was declared legally dead. Fortunately for Sixx, the paramedics were able to save his life by plunging two adrenaline needles directly into his heart. When he arrived home after this ordeal, he recorded a new message on his answering machine: “Hi, this is Nikki. I’m not home because I’m dead.”

This story sounds like a harrowing tale of rock n’ roll excess, but Nikki Sixx has told it so many times that it has lost all meaning. Despite the over exposure of his overdose, Sixx is taking us on the ride one more time with The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack. Designed as the audio companion to his new book, The Heroin Diaries follows Nikki Sixx from his darkest days to his recovery and eventual redemption

Redemption is the main theme of this record, but there is very little to redeem The Heroin Diaries. The record is marred with lazy songwriting, slick production and goofy interludes. There is nothing that separates The Heroin Diaries from a thousand other rock records to be released this year. It’s a shame, because Nikki Sixx is capable of so much more than this.

The problems begin right away with the opening track, “X-Mas in Hell.” Sixx reads his diary entry from Christmas of 1985, the lowest point in his life. The entry is dark, unflinching and honest. It would be quite effective on its own. Unfortunately, the entry is lost in a metallic version of “Carol of the Bells,” playing in the background. The effect is comical. These spoken word interludes occur throughout the record, each one meant to be a glimpse into the soul of an addict. Unfortunately, these interludes do nothing but break up the flow of the album.

“X-Mas in Hell” leads into “Van Nuys,” the first proper song of the album. The song begins with singer James Michael proclaiming that “he doesn’t want to die/out here in the Valley.” Michael is a major problem with The Heroin Diaries. He doesn’t have a bad voice, but it is completely devoid of charisma. He sounds like a million other rock singers, relying on the vaguely Eddie Vedder-ish tenor that has become an institution.

Michael is not completely to blame for this record. Guitarist DJ Ashba contributes nothing to this record, except for forgettable guitar riffs that are covered up by layers of effects. It’s almost as if Ashba thinks he can cover up his mediocre playing with Pro Tools Editing.

Ultimately, the blame falls upon Nikki Sixx himself. When he is motivated, Nikki Sixx is a great songwriter. It’s depressing to think that he has been working on this record for so long and the best he could come up with are clichés. “Life is Beautiful?” “Accidents Can Happen?” “Tomorrow?” This is all stuff you have heard before, and done in far more interesting ways. At times it feels like Sixx is cribbing lyrics from a Tony Robbins seminar.

The Heroin Diaries could have been a great record, but gets lost in a sea of clichés, Spinal Tap size pretensions and slick production. After 20 years, Nikki’s addiction stories have finally overdosed.

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