27 December 2015

Limp Bizkit - Chocolate Starfish And The Hotdog Flavored Water

You're probably wondering why I'm about to review this album. The reason is because a discussion among some of the blog members ended up on the subject of possibly the most maligned musical genre - Nu Metal. What had once been a genre which was merely a byword of down-tuned guitars and bass alongside drum beats with a bit more groove and shuffle to them had now grown to incorporate various other things such as DJ's doing turntable effects and rapping/scat vocals. This may sound like shit now but the possibilities seemed enormous back then. I guess we were all taken in by the "Judgement Night" soundtrack. Still the subject then turned into a discussion about whether to do a Nu Metal theme for the month of December, while we all get Christmas out of the way as well as the AOTY stuff sorted too. I'll be doing this one and possibly another Nu Metal band if I get round to it. Anyhow, back to Limp Bizkit. The last time I heard this album I was working part time on the twilight shift at the Inland Revenue and one of the guys there suggested I give it a go as - and I quote, "it's metal, and you like metal". Someone else also used that line for me when suggesting the benefits of Slipknot, another band who were popular round about this time but I never really got into. At the time, I didn't really give the album much thought bar the singles - plus, Napalm Death had just released 'Enemy Of The Music Business' round about the same time so that album was always going to get my attention. The band had returned to grindcore after a few years of experiments which was a big thing at the time.

Released in 2000, this album put Limp Bizkit into the A-list and brought nu-metal into the mainstream, but these guys were already making waves by then thanks to a good debut album ($3 Bill Y'All - my copy got destroyed) which was released in '97 and followed up in '99 by a second album (Significant Other) that I have no memory of bar the songs 'Break Stuff' and 'Nookie'. Despite their success there were a few critics who poured scorn on them - most notably, Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails so he must've got a shock when Fred Durst (lead singer of Limp Bizkit) later ended up on the board of Interscope Records...oh well. I can also remember some bell-end who wrote for The Sun newspaper (a tabloid which was mostly celebrity gossip and fluff like that, basically like The National Enquirer) described Limp Bizkit as "The New Nirvana"!. Limp Bizkit were also the band whose performance at Woodstock '99 set off a riot which not only lead to destruction at the site, but sexual assaults were reported too. This seemed to seal the band's reputation as a favourite for roided up frat boys who thought that Stiffler from American Pie was not only a real person, but someone worthy of being looked up to. There were a few of these types of clown back then. Fred Durst also had a dress sense which ended up being the subject of much ridicule - he'd dress the same as his core audience (backwards baseball cap, baggy jeans, hoodies etc) even though he was twice the age of most of them. I personally reckoned he looked like a prize plum (Eddie has censored me so we don't get sued). The guitarist (Wes Borland) would dress elaborately with coloured contacts and body paint. He was cool. Anyhow, let's get this shit underway...

1) Intro - It like R2D2 taking a droid-shit after a dodgy kebab and six pints of real ale. I'm not even gonna waste my time with it. Crappy music and voice effects.

2) Hot Dog - This one starts off canny decent, chunky beats and some great guitar-work before everyone's fave regressed teen ruins it by opening his mouth. I mean Fred Durst, not Jonathan Davis. Apparently, this song has the word "fuck" said about 46 times. It is most prevalent, to be fair. You can justify it all you like by saying "but at least it shows passion and he's saying what's on his mind" - but let's cut the crap, it's purely so he can appeal to the teens by using naughty words, daresay it's a heated response to Reznor for the song "Starfuckers INC" but at the time, Fred Durst was going round saying he'd had relationships with both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, both of which denied these claims.so he brought it on himself, to be fair. Chat shit, get banged! I myself have been known to curse a blue streak at the drop of a fucking penny but not as bad as this. It's all extremely overkill and a case of overcompensating and trying too hard to be a grown-up. Kinda like anything Miley Cyrus does.

3) My Generation - We all know this one as it was one of the standards down the rock clubs of the day. As with the first song, it's a decent enough musical adventure with some decent riffs and grooves which are there to get a dance-floor going and there is a nice mellow bit in the middle, just to break up the song a bit. This song also has two of the worst lyrics - "hey kids, take my advice, you don't want to step into a big pile of shit" and "the captain's drunk and your mother's Titanic"...seriously?

4) Full Nelson - Not a one I've had much experience with...and oh my God, it actually opens up with the lyrics "Why is everybody always picking on me?" This was another criticism of Nu Metal - dodgy lyrics. The problem was that whilst there is nothing wrong with drawing from personal experiences, feelings and emotions when writing songs, the majority of Nu Metal bands wouldn't so much as wear their heart on their sleeves but would instead rip the fucker out like Mola Ram and nail it to their foreheads. It all got a little bit much and you were left not giving a shit when the next band said they'd had an unhappy childhood. It was hard to after the previous ten bands all said the same thing. As with the other songs heard thus far - and you'll have sensed a theme here - it's a song with competent music let down by crappy lyrics and vocals. It sounds like a fight in a school-yard where neither combatant is entirely up for it even though they're talking the talk.

5) My Way - Believe it or not, this song is pretty good. It was used as the theme music for Wrestlemania 17 by WWE (then-WWF) which was an excellent WM show. Especially the "Gimmick Battle Royale" but I digress. The song itself starts out with clean played chords with a touch of FX around them before leading up to an explosive chorus. DJ Lethal also manages to keep the ear-candy in check and actually does some good DJ stuff. Maybe it's the rose-tinted glasses for not only WM17 but also for where I was at in my life back then (doing data entry in a sweatshop round the back of China Town in Newcastle and obsessing over a ps1 game called Fear Effect) but I do have a fondness for this song. Not even Fred Durst can spoil this one. The video was extremely elaborate for the time and had the band doing numerous costume changes. I like this song.

6) Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle) - Right, we ALL know what this one is as it made Number 1 in the UK Charts. And as a result of this, the song was all over TV and radio. All I'm going to say is that it was another good one which got the floor moving, especially as the video had Fred Durst and a group of female backing dancers doing a very specific dance routine to the chorus. It cottoned on pretty quickly in the rock clubs and such. The song itself wasn't any kind of technical masterpiece due to being mainly composed of the same riff either palm-muted or not but it did the job. Video was elaborate as well, shot on top of the WTC and with a cameo at the start by Ben Stiller who thought Fred Durst was a valet. This may or may not have been a Zoolander reference as that movie had just landed as this video came out and was very successful and popular. Rollin' was also the last single I bought on cassette.

7) Livin' It Up - Dedicated to Ben Stiller as he's Fred's favourite motherfucker. Seriously, how am I supposed to do this blog with a straight face when we've got stuff like this? At this time, I've yet to formulate a score but we're taking into account the poor rapping and vocals up to this point and to be honest, they're going to reduce the score on this album. The music is as you'd expect. "I'm just a crazy motherfucker, livin' it up"...

8) The One - This is a nice change, sounding very alternative rock and with singing instead of rapping. It makes a pleasant change, to be honest and I'm surprised it was even recorded by the same band as it sounds different to their usual fare. Mind, there is a worrying bit in the middle where it sounds like Durst is going to go off on one of his raps, but he doesn't/ Sure, the band have stepped on their respective distortion pedals and we're rocking towards the end but still, it manages to stay on course. Another good song and a different one too. From 3:40 onward, it turns into a different song.
I thought it was a mistake at the pressing plant where they'd made a mistake with the track-listing sequence but apparently not...

9) Getcha Groove On (Dirt Road Mix) - A duet with Xzibit, as having a real rapper on your half-arsed attempt to rap enhances the credibility somewhat but that doesn't necessarily work here. I mean, his bits sound good but Durst doesn't sound too good. The music sounds like the hip-hop tracks of the time, not bad but not the best. Mind, I'm not the best authority on hip-hop although I like Ice Cube.

10) Take A Look Around - Again, another one which should somewhat jog memories for you because it was used on the soundtrack for Tom Cruise movie "Mission Impossible 2". The music is pretty much ripped from the TV show but all rocked up. This would get a good pit going whenever it was played. Fred Durst raps about "Now I know why you wanna hate me, because hate is all the world has even seen lately". Seems a bit hamfisted. The video had the band trying to intercept undercover agents (which turned out to be decoys) by going undercover themselves in a roadside diner.

11) It'll Be Ok - This one starts out promising, albeit in a similar format to My Way. Not as good a song but still better than some of the stuff we've heard here. About relationship troubles, I think. A nice mix of clean verse and loud chorus.

12) Boiler - From what I remember, this song got a kicking in a rock mag. Not sure why, but I do remember the video being crazy bat-shit insane. This song is a lot better than that magazine gave credit for. I think it may have been because they were expecting typical Limp Bizkit fare - this has a different time change and structure compared to their usual fare. It also has quite a dark atmosphere as well, which is excellent. Great song.

13) Hold On - Before I continue, I would like to send condolences to the family and friends of former Stone Temple Pilots/Velvet Revolver singer Scott Weiland who sadly passed away on December 3rd 2015. May he rest in peace. He duets on this song and adds a touch of class to the proceedings. Taking another break from typical Limp Bizkit fare, it's a rather soulful tune. No boom or bombast here, just soul. And that's all you need.

14) Rollin' (Urban Assault Vehicle) - A remix of Rollin' which features DMX, Method Man, Redman and produced by Swizz Beats. VH1 listed this as one of the "Top 50 Worst Songs Of All Time" which is probably a bit strong, but it's not as bad as that. It should have been left on the cutting-room floor though. And ironically, the remix only highlights the repetitive nature of this particular song. It was also in the movie The Fast & The Furious.

15) Outro - Ten minutes of  some kind of in-joke nonsense that may have been funny at the time but is in fact very, very annoying.

We're now at the end of the album and I can't hate it as much as I would like to. The reason is because there is some decent stuff on here, albeit nothing too essential. That and - it's pretty much not only a product of it's time but also something that would no doubt fall into the category of "gateway album". It feels like it was aimed at a specific demographic who were certainly in the right place and time when this album dropped. It would be a classic but for one thing - Fred Durst. I found his vocal abilities to be mostly poor. His rapping has no real flow to it, the rhymes are awkward and forced, plus he didn't seem to know whether he wanted to be a hard man or some kind of clown-prince entertainer (check the videos for the singles off this album, he's either mugging off or trying to act tough). It's like having both Phil Anselmo and David Lee Roth in the same band at times. The actual band themselves were really good, making music which filled a role and entertained a lot of people at the time. This album is definitely the sound of 2000 in the summer and whilst some may argue that it's probably best left there, it's not too bad.

7 - This is good and well worth a check.

Chris J.

Top Track: My Way.

This album is on iTunes.



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