Despite the global popularity of the Eurovision Song Contest, its victors don’t often go on to achieve global success. That is, until a group of leather-clad Italian rockers who were barely out of their teenage years at the time scored a handful of viral hits in 2021. Setting them on a collision course with some of the industry’s most tried-and-true hitmakers, pop veterans like Rami Yacoub and the legendary Max Martin appear on what is set to be Måneskin’s true breakout project, Rush! Since Rush! is the band’s first project that’s mostly sung in English, we get to fully understand just how foul-mouthed frontman Damiano David can be, as he bolsters the band’s glam rock-tinged instrumentation with lyrics meant to mirror their sleazy and provocative performance style. Honestly, however, it might have been better if I didn’t know what was going on, as egregiously trashy lyrical moments bring the project way, way down as much as its abundantly formulaic nature. David’s raspy vocals are one of a kind and create a couple decent moments, but it feels like Måneskin’s aim is to cosplay the visceral shock value of rockers past first, and make good music second.
The opener “OWN MY MIND” certainly sets the pace with an undulating minor-key and menacing guitar riff and a chorus that explodes into a bit of a heavier area than the band usually ventures into, David’s vocal performance selling things on the fun and revelry until you begin to realize that every other track sounds the same. There are quite a few artists in this revived pop-rock area that love to tell us how much they belong with the oddballs and the freaks, and Måneskin are no exception – except on this track, the only one where they show don’t tell before the next track, “GOSSIP,” starts with the circus references. An overly theatrical and incredibly corny track that sounds like it could have been a leftover from the last Panic! at the Disco album, legendary guitarist Tom Morello tries to save it a little with his trademark soloing style, but it’s essentially the same instrumental palate as the last one with a far weaker approach.
Things fall even further with “TIMEZONE” and “BLA BLA BLA.” “TIMEZONE” is a slower acoustic track, but a change in pace is actually a bad sign as the band adhere to the most basic push and pull of a waltz-tempo template imaginable before a chorus that builds up to a truly unbearable belted scream. Even the accompanying guitar solo is a chaotic mess, showing that the band’s idea of bringing real rock back is just making a bunch of disjointed noise and proving their rebellious nature in that way. “BLA BLA BLA” could have been “so bad it’s good” if the joke they’re making weren’t so oddly mean-spirited. The British accent, mocking chanted vocals and overly nonsensical and inane lyrics initially felt like a cheeky intro, but it’s the entire song. As the instrumental gets steadily more deafening, David unleashes a series of immature personal jabs and petty plans in an attempt to undercut an ex-partner.
There’s been some chatter online that Max Martin is starting to lose his touch, and that “Blinding Lights” was his last hurrah. That might have sounded sacrilegious before, but when he’s making songs like “BABY SAID” you start to wonder if they might be right. A shorter burst of the same formulae with some sexually charged lyrics, boring is the last thing a song like this should be. Continuing to present themselves as highly unlikeable in the lyrics, they suggest that relationships are for nothing but carnal pleasures, balking at the idea of speaking to a partner at all. The track “FEEL” isn’t much better when it comes to escaping from formula – the half-whispered one-line chorus leading into a bland guitar riff reminds me of late-career Muse. Sandwiched between these two, however, is “GASOLINE,” one of the more experimental tracks here – and one for a good cause. Addressing the war in Ukraine with what is essentially a Putin diss track, the band offer some legitimately poetic lyrics about his god complex while calling for action and a victory for love and revelry with an anthemic chorus. A grinding guitar tone way down in the bass and a wild, tempo-shifting breakdown complete the picture before “DON’T WANNA SLEEP” does the opposite of what’s intended, putting me to sleep while David offers an oddly dead-eyed delivery while talking about his wild parties.
Continuing to prove that they’re banking on nothing but shock value to draw attention, the track “KOOL KIDS” finds Måneskin unintentionally conflicted about the message that they’re delivering, and even admitting in the song that all the lyrics are made up. Both calling themselves the cool kids for such noble activities as not using floss and saying they don’t care about being cool kids, criticizing others who only listen to trap and pop and don’t do hard drugs for upholding their image, the song is nothing more than a list of buzzwords meant to provoke, but that would only raise the eyebrows of young children. Putting on another fake British accent, nothing about the song is genuine. Surprisingly enough, it’s followed up by the most believable track on the album, “IF NOT FOR YOU.” A slower track that actually works, David shows some real emotion on a romantic ballad, set to a pretty great melody from Max Martin that shows off his unique tones. “READ YOUR DIARY” reverts back to some basic rock filler, before “MARK CHAPMAN” kicks off a series of tracks sung in the band’s native Italian. David sounds more comfortable in his first language, but the instrumental is nothing new and the title showcases just how tasteless and edgy the lyrics truly are as the band sing about a celebrity stalker and invoke the name of a famous killer.
Since “IL DONO DELLA VITA” certainly has its mixing issues, falling into a midtempo sludge of guitars, “LA FINE” is the best Italian track you’ll find here. Still, it only stands out due to the novelty of hearing such a track on a widely distributed mainstream album in the language, as the end of the project continues to fail at offering anything new. A slew of singles is saved for the end, with “MAMMAMIA” being the worst offender. Containing some truly unpalatable lyrical moments and David making moaning noises in my ear, it’s an overwhelming experience and maximalism pushed too far. Things close out with the Red Hot Chili Pepper-emulating “SUPERMODEL” and “THE LONELIEST,” a stadium-sized glam-rock closer that showcases some impressive belts from David but an highly cheesy atmosphere.
It remains to be seen whether Måneskin can keep up their status as a globally-known band, or if they’ll sink into the background and score a couple of international hits that never make it across the Atlantic from year to year. If they continue to have access to top producers, David’s genuine talent could easily be applied to something a lot better in the future. Once the initial shock wears off, we’ll see what they have left.
Favourite Tracks: GASOLINE, IF NOT FOR YOU, OWN MY MIND
Least Favourite Track: BLA BLA BLA