What to make of HIM? Between the pseudo-satanic lyrics, the ridiculous "heartagram" logo (a cross between a heart and an inverted pentagram), the adamant assertions that "HIM" does not stand, no way, no how, for "His Infernal Majesty" and the through-and-through pop sound – well, forget integrity.
Here's how the typical song works: Synthesizers and simulated pianos add a little atmosphere to the guitars' mindless, almost-sounds-like-real-metal power chords. A subdued-but-catchy verse leads into an intense-and-catchy chorus. Repeat. Maybe a quiet bridge. Almost without fail, a key change. Next track.
But something helped this band stick around, as they've released And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits 1997-2004. Late 2005's Dark Light probably earned the group some new American fans, and Love Said No presents a great opportunity for them to catch up before Venus Doom hits in September.
The fact is that, whatever its absurdities, HIM has cranked out some infectious goth-pop. Ville Valo, one of the most fascinating (and overdramatic) singers in modern rock, covers up the other musicians' mediocrity.
"Won't you die tonight for love?" Well, no, but we'll sure sing along! The collection includes all the essentials. There's "Poison Girl," "Heartache Every Moment" and "In Joy and Sorrow." The new recordings, the title track and a cover of Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man," fit in with the rest of the material.
As far as choices go, the biggest problem is that, for whatever reason (possibly copyright?), the disc completely ignores Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666. Instead, "Your Sweet Six Six Six" and "Wicked Game" appear via their Razorblade Romance re-recordings, and "When Love and Death Embrace" – which never could hold down six minutes of space without endless repetition – is newly re-recorded.
This most hurts "Your Sweet Six Six Six," far and away the best, most haunting and heaviest HIM track to date. On Razorblade Romance, synthesizers replaced the distorted guitars, and the whole thing sounds a bit sterile. It's still the standout, though.
Looking for innovation? Thought? Look elsewhere. But when it comes right down to it, it's hard to dislike Love Said No. The 16 selections here waste 67 minutes with each listen – but boy, does that time fly.
Robert VerBruggen (http://www.therationale.com) is Assistant Book Editor at The Washington Times.
CD Info and Links
HIM - And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits 1997-2004