Just looking at the guest list, and the offering here doesn't seem as bad as you'd expect. Executive production from Travis Barker, and guest appearances from Scarlxrd, ZillaKami, and oddly, Chino Moreno, gave me hope for at best, a sub-par rap-fusion release. However, my yearning for mediocrity was soon thrown out the window, right from the opening track, and its egregious blackbear and Machine Gun Kelly features, and the first taste of Trippie's strained, groaning delivery. However, the song that follows is nothing short of abysmal, and is definitely the point where all the horrible ideas one could imagine coalesce into three stomach-churning minutes of pure auditory filth. Over WITHOUT YOU's terribly generic, chugging guitar lines, Trippie Redd delivers his worst performance on a song yet, with banal, throwaway lyrics before climbing into his upper register on a choral moment that is so insufferably unlistenable, it's a struggle to even make it halfway through. A common theme across this record is this lazy and generic approach to songwriting, and while I'm not expecting scholar-levels of lyricism when I listen to Trippie Redd, NEON SHARK eschews any and all semblance of talent in its content.
The rest of the record really just compounds bad ideas on top of this already established painful formula of tinny, crystal-clean and forgettable guitar passages, combined with Trippie Redd's nasal, awkward moaning. Chino Moreno's appearance on GERONIMO doesn't come close to any of his performances with Deftones, Trippie's proximity to the microphone on the emo switchup of RED SKY is uncomfortable, and SAVE YOURSELF could be the opening cut for any number of 2000s live-action Nickelodeon kids' shows. For a majority of the record, over the faux-energy of these blaringly pristine riffs, Trippie and Travis fail to conjure anything decent for the multitude of genres they desecrate, and really present some of the worst attempts at rock revivalism in the past few years.
Only in comparison with the musical detritus of every track before it, both LEADERS and FROZEN OCEAN are the only semblance of highlights on this monstrosity. While still mired by Trippie's abysmal singing, the former's more subtle instrumentation is the best example of some old blink-182 shining through in Barker's production. And surprisingly, there is one track where the exaggerated range of Trippie's vocals actually work, with FROZEN OCEAN by FAR being the best song on the album by default, as the only tolerable song here. The almost black metal drum breakdowns and strained vocal delivery create a moment that is still definitely not something to return to, but comparatively with the rest of this failure of a record, is leaps ahead on every level.
With that being said, there's really no reason to ever acknowledge this album's existence. Even with other previous attempts at rapper-rock crossovers (Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven), there was at least a lick of self-awareness and humility. With NEON SHARK, Trippie Redd and Travis Barker present hardly anything of substance, instead choosing to musically jerk each other off with hilariously embarassing performances. I've attempted to try to defend Trippie in the past, but there is absolutely nothing to salvage from this pathetic abomination of perceived importance.
Least Favourite Tracks: