A week after its release, I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about Stray Kids’ Maniac. Like many recent tracks, its plusses and minuses cancel each other out and result in music that’s perfectly… fine. This indifferent impression carries through the entire mini album. The songs are generally okay, but there’s nothing pulling me back for repeat listens the way past albums have. Even so, Stray Kids continue their multi-song promotional push, releasing a music video for album opener Venom (거미줄).
With a few tweaks, Venom could have been a real standout. I like the glitchy beat and the horror show synths that sweep in to bring extra tension. The melodic pre-chorus is also a standout, anchoring the track and attempting to set up a satisfying pay off. Unfortunately, Venom refuses to play nice. Its hook pulls back, taking a minimalist approach that feels quite empty. This happens often throughout the album and it’s continually frustrating. Rather than deliver a full meal, these songs feel like appetizers for a feast that never comes.
Venom loses its focus as we careen into additional rap verses and instrumental shifts. I’m not saying every song must follow a strict verse/chorus structure, but if you’re going to play around with arrangement, you better make sure you’ve packed your song with standout moments. Venom’s black hole of a chorus makes this challenging. When the track meanders, there’s no sense of anticipation because you know we’ll just be returning to that dull drop once again. Casual listeners would be better off seeking out the album’s two unit tracks.