What I’m about to say, I say with no trace of irony: Limp Bizkit are pretty awesome. In fact, so far as I can tell, they were the last good thing alt-rock radio had to offer.
Let’s talk about their musical merits. I know that Fred Durst got a little whiny there sometime around Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. No doubt. But while Fat Freddy D's raps aren’t the greatest, his screams have always been on point. Durst vocalizes the guttural rage of the disaffected suburbanite. You laugh at such things, because you’re from a nice suburb, not some decaying post-industrial shithole, and so is everyone you met while studying psychology at Vassar.
Think what you want about the man in the red ballcap. It doesn’t really matter. The real centerpieces of the LB are (or were — Lethal left the band in 2012) guitarist Wes Borland and DJ Lethal, the latter formerly of House of Pain. Borland isn’t just known as one of the most innovative guitar players of the last 25 years. He’s also a man with a keen eye for what it means to be a rock star in our day and age. He cultivates a striking stage presence, correctly seeing his appearance as equally important to what he’s playing on his guitar. Unlike half the bands playing Brochella this year, Borland has a more creative stage look than dressing up like a 1930s hobo.
Lethal, for his part, has been hitting heavy since his days with House of Pain. But don’t take my word for him being one of the top sound engineers and turntablists in the game. Vinnie Paz, Ill Bill, DJ Muggs and DMC will be happy to sing his praises for me.
Most importantly, the L-I-M-P Bizkit have riffs for days. I’m convinced anyone who doesn’t like the main riff in “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)” can’t bench press half their own body weight. You have to have alarmingly low testosterone levels to hear that and not want to crank your speakers way the fuck up. Nowadays, alt-rock radio might be all banjos and ukuleles and harps. Back in the golden days of nu-metal, Limp Bizkit made alt-rock that actually rocked.
Even their newer material hearkens back to an earlier era that’s really not that long ago. It was a time when men could shamelessly own a pair of fully functioning testicles and engage in manly pursuits without 16 layers of ironic detachment shielding them. Part of why Limp Bizkit are so hated right now is because the dominant paradigm is basically what it was during the days of grunge. Think man buns and guys taking selfies with signs proclaiming their feminist sensibilities.
Compare the low-key, folk-tinged sounds of whatever sensitive new age guy crap you’re listening to right now to the blithe misogyny of “Nookie,” with its rough and tough meathead rock riffs and sonically interesting effects solo from DJ Lethal. You don’t stand around with your eyes closed meditating on the beautiful poetry coming out of Durst. You mosh hard in a way that, if you were doing it right, garners you a broken nose. Try to listen to “Break Stuff” without simultaneously bouncing and planning your revenge moves. Sure, anyone can write a hate anthem, but not many people can make it fun.
Bands like Korn and Staind still had one foot cemented in the cesspool of '90s divorce rock. And it’s not that Limp Bizkit are totally lacking in semi-embarrassing, angst-ridden moments. But even when they're being angsty, it’s a merrily muscular form of angst. It’s not a coincidence that one of Fred Durst’s favorite films is Fight Club, something he has touted on more than one occasion. You probably also love the movie, but are too afraid to admit that in public, for fear that you won’t get served some sugary crap in a mason jar from a “mixologist” in suspenders.
At the end of the day, Limp Bizkit were the ultimate party rock band for the post-grunge era. Think of them as the '90s version of Motley Crue. It was a different time in the '90s than it was in the '80s, to say the least. Guys were scowling even as they were having the best time of their lives. Limp Bizkit were the background to that kind of dark, hardscrabble rock & roll party life, just as the Crue were the soundtrack of a glitzier, glammier time in the 1980s. Back then it was big hair and tight jeans. In the '90s it was big jeans and tight soul patches.
If you were half as obsessed with “authenticity” as you claim to be, you’d be bumping the Bizkit, not the motherfucking Mountain Goats. As your attorney, I recommend that you get a gym membership, lift heavy, eat more burgers and bump Significant Other on the regs. Seriously, aren’t you tired of all that current alt-rock James Taylor shit yet?
Note: An earlier version of this article failed to specify that DJ Lethal is no longer part of Limp Bizkit.