[Editor's Note: Fuck Guilty Pleasures celebrates the over-produced, commercial, artless, lowbrow music that we believe is genuinely worthwhile. Like, among the best music ever.]
Fred Durst was the Kanye West of his day. Not to say he was as talented. But at the height of Limp Bizkit's fame -- and make no mistake, this was hundreds of millions of dollars of fame -- he was the same type of beloved villain.
He succeed in that era's popular music despite being (and also because he was) an unhinged asshole. If there was a Twitter in 1999, Durst would've been the king of it. Let's pause to remember his bon mot for critics of his homophobia: "You like apples, I like oranges. You like hairy buttholes and I don't." And he capitalized on a tossed-off Eminem punchline to insist he really did get with from Christina Aguilera.
Like Kanye, Durst never fucked up to an extraordinary degree. His tiresome sameness just reached a breaking point. People tire of acrid public personas; just ask Eminem, who preemptively changed tack for last year's safety-valved "comeback" Recovery.
But it's a shame that Durst's dominance over this band has irreparably distorted history, because Limp Bizkit was hardly the worst nu-metal had to offer. In fact, you could even say they were good. I certainly find them to be.
In 1999, Rolling Stone wrote of their multi-multi-platinum smash Significant Other: "At this point, hating them seems a little disingenuous. They're actually (gulp) good." Listening to Other today, it's shocking how grooving and un-turgid it is. Unlike most drummers at the time, John Otto knew his way around "Funky Drummer" better than a double-kick setup, as you can hear in the funky interludes between songs like "I'm Broke." His pinging piccolo snare sound makes even their chunkiest riffs fleet-of-foot; witness the lightly drumrolled verses of "Trust?"
Then there's the incomparable Wes Borland, who did almost as much for the strange hard rock riffs of this era as Tom Morello. The band's greatest song ,"Nookie," (probably the most dissonant tune you still know all the words to) was built around a strange four-string invention of his own design fitted with both guitar and bass strings, while his standard crunch-crunch-harmonic pattern had enough variations to sustain a couple of good albums.
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The less-rap, more-arena-metal Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water was dominated by Durst, who was by then a director. (He's now grown into an outstanding one, my editor says.) He was also an Interscope VP, and an egotist who really did poke fun at himself.
"My Way" and the two versions of "Rollin'" are more fun than you remember, as is the Trent Reznor dig "Hot Dog," which brags about the number of times it says "fuck." "Getcha Groove On" and "Rollin' (Urban Assault Vehicle)" continue Fred's surprisingly good taste in straight hip-hop beats and guests (DMX!), even if he'd never go on to best his sparkling Method Man duet "N 2 Gether Now."
But after that Limp Bizkit more or less became as bad as everyone said. A video of screaming into poor Thora Birch's face led to an awful Who cover, dubious lineup changes.
This year's Gold Cobra is pinched and unlistenable. Borland's soul is no longer in his tinkering and Durst, well, his heart's no longer in a song called "Douchebag." I hope his prospective sitcom deal of the same name yields -- yes, I'll say it -- douchier results.