Scars on Broadway was seen by Daron Malakian as a respite from the pop-metal fury of his work with System of a Down. To that end, Malakian has succeeded immensely in providing an album of more eclecticism and songwriting ingenuity than some thought possible. Yes, there’s plenty of metal influences, but they’re mostly filtered through the heavy grunge sound by way of Soundgarden and In Utero-era Nirvana. There are also vague traces of early glam songwriting that’s expressed in some unexpectedly creative tracks, such as “Chemicals,” “3005” and serene closer “They Say,” which sounds more like “Heart-Shaped Box” than some will be willing to admit. Despite the emo leanings of the music and Malakian’s singing, the album’s music never sounds insincere or whiny.
What keeps Scars on Broadway from being an outright success, however, is the kiddie pool-deep nature of the lyrics, which do sound insincere and whiny. Malakian has a number of points of attack: global warming, drugs, Jesus, genocide (including his only real dangerous move in calling out Turkey). Yet, it’s all glossed over in lyrics that can range from the obvious (“I know it’s really hard to see/ That we are the enemy/ Of the Earth”) to the outright stupid (“Superfragilisticexpialadocious is a word to me/ Mamma mia!”). “Cute Machine,”aimed at the apathy inherent in lolcats-like distractions — marks the only real mature sociopolitical commentary to be found on the album.
If the point of Scars on Broadway was for the System of a Down frontman to grow up, he could have done himself the favor of supporting some legitimately excellent music with equally smart lyrics. For those who maintain that vocals are the most superficial element of pop music however, Scars on Broadway will be a surprise treat.