Flash backwards to the year 2004. Limp Bizkit had just released Results May Vary, a mishmash of past-its-prime nu-metal angst and attempts at sophisticated “grown-up” rock music that lacked the mass appeal of the band’s previous hit records, Significant Other and Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. Guitarist and costume-wearer Wes Borland had jumped ship in 2001, taking with him the band’s most likable (or least hate-able) quality: the riffs. If someone had told you then that “Limp Bizkit’s going to release a new album 7 years from now with their original lineup!” you’d probably have laughed in their face. It would be hard to imagine 40-year old Fred Durst hopping around shouting out expletives and bragging about being famous.
And yet, here we sit in 2011, seemingly decades from the heyday of the nu-metal movement, and Limp Bizkit have just released that album, Gold Cobra. There’s little point in critiquing an LB record in terms of “artistry” or “substance”, as they’ve always been the musical equivalent of cotton candy: it tastes good when you’re young but rots your teeth and makes you sick as you get older. As another comparison, consider Limp Bizkit the auditory version of a Michael Bay film: flashy, colorful, filled with explosions and some fun moments, but lacking intellectual capacity or depth.
No one asked Limp Bizkit to re-form and record a new record; all the fans from the late-1990s early 2000s are now in their mid to late twenties, hardly the angry-at-the-world high school drifters they were back then. Even Bizkit’s one-time contemporaries in the genre have either changed styles completely (Linkin Park) or stayed true to themselves and remained a major figure in rock music, despite their genre’s lack of popularity (Deftones). Others, like Korn, have failed to maintain a huge mainstream audience, having turned to dubstep in an effort to become relevant again. Listening to Gold Cobra, it’s apparent that Freddy D. and the gang just don’t care about being accepted. On five different songs on the album, he says exactly that: I don’t give a damn (Bring it Back), I don’t give a fuck what none of y’all people think (Gold Cobra), I don’t give a shit what those motherfuckers think (Get a Life), Should I remind you motherfuckers I don’t give a fuck? (Shotgun) and It’s going out to the people who don’t give a fuck (90.2.10). Perhaps Gold Cobra's artwork should have been this.
It’s a shame that Fred is such a force on this record, because Borland, John Otto, Sam Rivers and DJ Lethal have never sounded better. Remember how high in the mix Fred’s voice was on Chocolate Starfish? That’s again the case here, as most of the songs begin with loud guitars and violent rhythms, before quieting down and letting his shrill voice clog up all the air. After the nightmare-ish Introbra (ugh), Bring it Back kicks off the album with an oddly-timed blend of club beats and spitfire riffage. Fred rambles about parties and “danger zones” until a jarring Borland riff combines with Otto’s thunderous drums, giving the song a sick groove that unfortunately ends too soon.
Gold Cobra is the album’s lead single, complete with ridiculous music video (as shown below). Again featuring the mash up of Borland’s wailing guitar and Otto’s slick percussion, the song features more inane lyrics (Holding the gold, it’s so gold, it’s so golden y’all) and a verse structure that sounds like Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend, a dubious comparison. In Shark Attack, Fred references Break Stuff, this time saying it’s Another one of those days/feelin’ like a shovel. An affront to the Bizkit detractors out there, Fred brags about still shockin’ like a heart attack, obviously proud of himself. Borland provides some of his best guitar work on the album on this cut, atmospheric squeals lighting up the background of the song. Fred’s terrible vocal bridge is saved by Rivers' bass line, which nods to the Jaws films. Get it? Shark Attack and Jaws? Pure genius.
Despite its silly Cypress Hill-styled verse, Get a Life features the album’s most abrasive chorus, with Fred screaming like he hasn’t since Three Dollar Bill Y’all. Eerie guitars and pounding drums lead into the aggressive chorus, giving the song an appealing “old-school” vibe, as long as you don’t pay attention to Fred’s ego-stroking and confrontational nonsense.
Shotgun sounds like both P.O.D. and Saliva, so it’s best to stop talking about it right there. Douche Bag, with Fred copping a raspy, snarling tone, is made for the haters: transparent braggadocio aided by more ear-pleasing (if not technically advanced) guitar work by Borland. There’s an urgency in the music that leads into the chorus of Douche bag!/I’ma fuck you up/fuck you/ fuck you/ fuck you up! It’s a perfect song for blasting in your car as you chug energy drinks on the way to an MMA fight. The jazzy outro with Fred laughing like a power-crazed maniac is odd, and just may be his way of admitting that he’s been trolling us all these years.
As with most Limp Bizkit albums, the slower, “deeper” songs are the easiest to appreciate. Walking Away is atmospheric and finds Fred actually singing. Think Re-Arranged mixed with It’ll Be Ok and you’ll have an idea how this one sounds. Loser borrows My Way’s echoing guitar intro, but has its own nice melody and almost somewhat decent lyrics. The song shows that LB is capable of creating “good” music with some semblance of meaning and creativity every now and then. Borland adds a great guitar solo in the bridge as well.
Autotunage would have fit on Lil’ Wayne’s abysmal Rebirth album. A party anthem, the song is driven by some of Otto’s best percussion and drum work on the disc, which partly makes up for the song’s lyrical vapidity. Auto-Tune Fred is amusing for about a minute, but it soon wears thin, which might have been the point of the song in the first place. Who knows?
90.2.10, a song that begins with Slayer-like instrumental fury, quickly unravels into a typical Durst rap about girls and parties and Hollywood. Killer in You closes out the album with hip-hop beats, sludgy guitars and Fred warning someone about a home intruder. An odd choice for album-closer, maybe, but it does finish off the album on a high note, musically.
With Gold Cobra, Limp Bizkit have proven that they really don’t care about being hated; releasing an album like this in 2011 definitely takes some courage. There’s practically no audience for boisterous rap-metal like this in today’s musical climate. Here we are, however, with a brand new Limp Bizkit record to discuss. Perhaps it’s the shock value of a band like LB releasing an album like this that has garnered Gold Cobra more than a few mixed (or at least not-totally-hateful) reviews. The band consciously chose to return to the formula that put them on the map nearly fifteen years ago. Gold Cobra features the band’s best musical (but not lyrical) output since Three Dollar Bill Y’all, if you can tolerate Fred’s macho-dude posturing. Yes, it’s empty thematically; it provides nothing in terms of sophistication or introspection. If you want that, go listen to the new Bon Iver album. Gold Cobra is silly, frivolous summer blockbuster music, just as it was intended to be.
LB’s never been about substance, nor have they claimed to be “serious”. It’s easy and understandable to hate them for that, considering all the earnest, creatively worthwhile bands that struggle to make it in this business. In the end, though, despising Limp Bizkit just isn’t worth the time it takes to get worked up. If you don’t want to listen to it, don’t. They don’t take themselves seriously, so why should you? There are plenty of other better, substantive 2011 album releases to check out. If, however, you’re looking for some mindless, cotton-candy fun and can appreciate the solid musicianship behind Durst’s overbearing presence, give Gold Cobra a spin.