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Aug 15

LIMP BIZKIT – “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)”

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#889, 27th January 2001

Bizkit “Take my advice,” says Fred Durst on “My Generation”, “you don’t want to step into a big pile of shit.” Wise words. But shit comes in many forms. The spoor of Durst, the self-styled chocolate starfish, the anus, is compacted nuggets of resentment, pinched out rabbit-style in single form, delivered with a constipated grunt or haemorrhoidal yelp. Wes Borland, in skullpaint and bodystocking a guitar-FX Eno to Durst’s reverse Ferry, takes a contrasting approach, conjuring torrents of colonic sludge, shitrush splatter effects and bowl-cracking divebombs. In the parade of number ones, between a career-building film star and a girl group’s last-chance classicism, “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)” is more than a surprise, it’s a dirty protest. Back up, tell me what you’re gonna do now! Grit my teeth, reach for the imodium.

They’re an easy target. How bad is it really? “Rollin’” is one of the worse Limp Bizkit singles, because it moves away from their standard M.O. of reflexive bitterness, anger at a world that isn’t giving them what they want. They were good, I grant them, at packaging that up into noisy, hooky, usefully unspecific grievance bombs. “Nookie” – if ever a word signalled how old an intended audience was, that’s the one – is as targeted as they get. Otherwise they’re sticking up a finger to nothing, forever on the edge of a violent tantrum whose stakes we never know. Is that what being a 14 year old boy feels like? Sometimes. Often enough to win them an audience. Early adolescence – Durst was 29, but this doesn’t feel like grown-ups’ music to me – often means being promised a world and told, by your parents, your peers, your body, “not quite yet”. There will always be a market for catharsis: Limp Bizkit was one iteration. And it wasn’t just boys who responded – nu-metal in general had a mixed audience it never got credit for and barely respected, enough that fellow travellers Linkin Park could be derided as a “boy band”.

Durst strikes me as a goon though, a jock on the make, his self-pity dredged from nowhere deeper than his own reserves of entitled impatience. “Rollin’” finds Limp Bizkit in unusual, celebratory mode, on top of the world, not finding sullen fault with it. This is a grisly development: it means that on the verses Durst drops his low growl and raps in a higher voice, hatefully quavering and quacking. It’s an infuriating sound, and Borland’s music – an aggressive, inventive soup of riffs and lunges – deserves a lot better. But any music would. A gollumish peak arrives when he chides the haters: “you need some better beats and, uh, better rhymes”. It’s all in that “uh”, a condescending little chuckle from a man whose rhymes would shame a Five single. Hearing it, though Fred Durst is older than I am, the generation gap yawns in front of me; I become a retired Colonel spluttering over his port. The gall of the man! The effrontery!

It’s a ridiculous reaction, just what Fred would have wanted – he picked the name of the band to actively repel the curious, and paid a radio station to play their debut single a nerve-straining fifty times in a row. Trolling, button-pushing, and us-v-them posturing were apt games for a man whose records were such a sulky churn. Durst played them remorselessly, even after the wretched depths of Woodstock ‘99, when his band became the soundtrack for a weekend of searing heat, price-gouging, arson and ultimately rape. Were Bizkit to blame? No – start with the negligent organisers. But Durst’s asinine on-stage commentary – “Don’t let anybody get hurt. But I don’t think you should mellow out.” – exposed the limits of catharsis, “letting out the energy”, as he put it. Energy is cool and all, unless you’re in its way.

No shit stuck to Durst, or at least the people whose dollars mattered didn’t think he was a prick, even if the matter was settled for anyone else. The band carried on as before, spun the notoriety into “Rollin’” and “My Generation”, and the Chocolate Starfish And The Hot-Dog Flavoured Water album, their sales peak. “Rollin’” was a brag, a cry of triumph, for the ladies and the fellas and the people who don’t give a fuck. In Bizkitland, not giving a fuck was the highest known virtue. And yes, part of me wants not to give a fuck, to meet “Rollin’” on its own terms. Someone once played it at Club Popular – the trollish esprit du Durst manifest in the DJ booth. It was horrific, and hilarious, and the best way to hear it, as Borland’s propulsive hippo-rock drowned out Fred’s mewling.

So you can find contexts where “Rollin’” works, where its dump of noise and half-competent rapping is a vulgar virtue. Maybe the number ones list is one of those. But mostly it’s a painful chore, and that’s squarely because of the very dreadful Fred Durst. He’s the law of unintended consequences made flesh, the point where a bunch of 1990s ideas – House of Pain’s frat-hop, Rage Against The Machine’s spluttered fury, Kurt Cobain’s self-loathing, Black Francis’ screams and yelps, Beavis and Butthead’s wit – are driven first to their grim conclusion, then right over a cliff.

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Comments

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  1. 91
    Steve Mannion on 17 Aug 2015 #

    #90 ‘One’ was probably my intro to (harderbetterfasterstronger) metal too only with the original release six years earlier. But then the video (and the live version) was all over MTV at that point and the latter seemed huge all over Europe so I can relate. That video tho…nightmares 4ever…

    MTV was initially so crucial in this respect with hard rock more than most things – fewer outlets and windows for this kind of thing elsewhere and even tho by the time of nu-metal MTV’s emphasis on actual videos was on the slide (and the inception of the UK & Ireland specific channel in the late 90s actually reduced metal exposure further). The huge buzz for Korn’s ‘Freak On A Leash’ video at the ’98 (or ’99’s?) VMAs did stand out but from my perspective (wrapped up in dance/electronica/rnb/rap) they seemed a distant island until LB and others broke bigger a few years later.

  2. 92
    Cumbrian on 17 Aug 2015 #

    #91: I’d say Kerrang TV (and the magazine) are as important, if not more so, than MTV by early 2001 – and they’re still playing nu-metal to this day (I turned the channel on yesterday for an hour or so whilst collecting more thoughts about this and they played Rollin’ and something by Linkin Park and Last Resort by Papa Roach as well as Blink, Sum 41, The Offspring’s #1 and a variety of other tracks that were big around this time). Mind you, I think I’ve said this before, I’m not convinced that this is indicative of anything other than those who were into that music the first time around still being the core audience – I think today’s teenagers are probably watching Youtube for their music video hit (but am willing to be proved wrong).

    Kerrang also more widely available than MTV (it’s free on Sky now for instance, along with the other Box Channels), so will have a slightly wider audience than the MTV group.

    #90 I too found stoner more palatable than much metal that was being produced under the nu-metal banner. Have recently discovered Torche, who seem to fit this description, and am pretty glad I did (the motorik inflected title track from Restarter has been going around my head for days). QOTSA and Kyuss are obvious touchpoints for this stuff too and I am yet to get tired of listening to them 15-20 years down the line.

    Were System of a Down really nu-metal? They don’t seem to have much in common with some of the others in this group – more willing to play around with proggy time signatures and so on, at least.

  3. 93
    Tommy Mack on 17 Aug 2015 #

    I’d say System Of A Down were number metal to the extent that Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band were blues-rock: both were sonically routed in those genres but never slave to their musical rules.

  4. 94
    Cumbrian on 17 Aug 2015 #

    #93: If there isn’t a genre of metal called Number Metal, there should be. Like Math Rock except heavier.

    I assume that was a predictive text thing – for shame that you’ve not included nu-metal in your dictionary!

  5. 95
    Tommy Mack on 17 Aug 2015 #

    I quite literally need to get some better rhymes.

  6. 96
    Pink champale on 18 Aug 2015 #

    The Iron Laws of Pop are generally pretty clear that any genre so reviled by critics and hipsters is revealed in 15 years time to have been right all along (though not so much the fans who liked it at the time and ever since). But Durst’s terrible power clearly smashes all such laws.

  7. 97
    Tommy Mack on 18 Aug 2015 #

    #90: Five Days Long, interesting that you mark Slipknot as the nadir of nu-metal. From what I remember, they were one of two bands (along with SOAD) who nu-skeptics acknowledged as having something worth checking out, even if it was just their live show and some of the more abstract elements of their music.

    FWIW, I was a casual fan of the nu in that I went to see a few of the bands live but never listened to many of the records. Saw Slipknot twice and found them underwhelming but both performances were at festivals during hours of daylight: I imagine inside with the lights off, it’d have a lot more intensity.

  8. 98
    Ed on 18 Aug 2015 #

    @97 I read SOAD as SUAD, and puzzled for some time about their lost nu-metal phase.

  9. 99
    fivelongdays on 19 Aug 2015 #

    @97 – Mack Tommy, I’m afraid I was offering a contrarian opinion. Slipknot have, it’s true, seemed to have migrated to the Metal Pantheon, which still baffles me. I guess there’s a whole swathe of people who confuse chaos for heaviness. As far as I’m concerned, they’re nothing but a fake gimmick, heavy metal for people who don’t like heavy metal but like the idea of being ‘fucked up’.

    @93 – SOAD were clearly nuMetal, but they were nuMetal with their own ideas, which put them a cut above most of the competition. Shame more bands didn’t follow their lead (see also Deftones)

  10. 100
    Tommy Mack on 19 Aug 2015 #

    #99 – Ha, rebuke taken, I’ll pay more attention in future!

    Not really disagreeing with you other than to say I don’t remember them being that bad. I was just surprised as I remember the attitude of both ‘proper’ metal fans and the rock/indie crowd being “Nu-metal’s shit. Well, obviously System are brilliant and Slipknot are a laugh at least” or thereabouts.

    I’ll have to go back and listen to Slipknot (not what you intended, I’m sure!) to give you my thoughts on their music. I was never a fan but I don’t remember them being as wholly without merit as you say. I reckon I’d take them over some of the bilge Korn ended up doing after their first few albums. But I’m not really a metal fan other than on the most casual footing. And I’m generally fond of gimmickry in music, especially when artists are fiercely committed to their own gimmick. You’ve perhaps hit on something in that their gimmick gave outsiders a way into the band* while repelling people who were perhaps more committed metal fans.

    *(and also appealed to really young kids – my enduring memory of them** is Ozzfest in 2001, seeing hundreds of pre-teen kids, many dressed as members of Slipknot to varying degrees of success, dragging their parents/older siblings in loco parentis into the moshpit only to flee, many of them in tears, after a couple of numbers)

    **actually, my other enduring memory is that Imperial’s student union bar used to have a giant screen showing usually MTV2 but if someone played the jukebox, the TV sound would be replaced by the punter’s chosen song. Clearly some people thought this was great sport and whenever a Slipknot video came on would put Backstreet Boys or A1 or something similar on the jukey. Students, eh?

  11. 101
    Fivelongdays on 19 Aug 2015 #

    I’ll admit that I seem to be in the minority when it comes to Slipknot. I can sort of see the attraction – and I’ll admit that it’s another case where if I’d been born three years later, I’d have thought it was utterly brill, and if I’d been born three years earlier I’d have been over myself enough to get into them. For personal reasons, though, I think they’re one of the biggest cons to have ever been perpetrated on the metal community.

    I should really get over myself.

    (Joey Jordison is an excellent drummer though)

    (And from what I can remember, the reason I didn’t go to Ozzfest in 2001 was that it was chockablock with nuMetal bands. Ozzfest 1998, OTOH, was my first EVER festival. Very good it was too.)

  12. 102
    AMZ1981 on 19 Aug 2015 #

    I was surprised to discover that six of the forty biggest selling singles of 2001 could loosely be termed pop punk or nu metal; I say loosely as one was a Michael Jackson cover and the other by a nu metal artist performing a non nu metal song (none are bunnied). Also two of the top twenty albums were in the genre (Slipknot and Linkin Park with Limp Bizkit just a place outside). Was this a peak year?

  13. 103
    Billy Hicks on 20 Aug 2015 #

    Absolutely a peak year, and this was the music my brother adored even though he was eighteen months younger than me. While I was very much still in the Steps and S Club zone, this was one of the songs my brother would blast out his room/sing along with to show how rebellious he was. Eminem’s album and ‘Clint Eastwood’ by Gorillaz (not bunnied!) were other favourites of his.

    I knew I’d be turning 13 in September of 2001, and instead of seeing it as a good thing I instead looked at that future date with terror. I didn’t want to be a teenage dirtbag. I was perfectly happy with things how they were. I’d watch Kevin the Teenager on Harry Enfield repeats and find him weirdly scary- I was going to turn into *that*? Grow long hair and walk around funny and insult my parents all the time? God forbid. Which by 2003 was exactly what I had become, but more on that when we get there.

    The big, massive early 2001 bunny that reminds me of happy year 7 times is yet to come, about as different to this as you can imagine.

  14. 104
    fivelongdays on 24 Aug 2015 #

    NuMetal had reached saturation point a little before this got to number one. As I think I said, there was the feeling that Linkin Park – who were often described as a ‘nuMetal boy band’ – were the beginning of the end. I think people were just ready to stand up and say ‘no more!’. That said, it didn’t start to die out properly until around 2003 – the end of the scene is hard to pinpoint exactly, just a feeling that everyone was sick and tired of the fakery.

    Have only recently realised that nuMetal’s finest album – perhaps the one record from the scene which could be fully described as great – came out in 2000, which fits my personal narrative.

    I’m intrigued by which singles @102 is talking about, mind…

  15. 105
    Cumbrian on 24 Aug 2015 #

    #104: The first one is Alien Ant Farm doing Smooth Criminal – not sure Alien Ant Farm are really nu-metal, though they definitely got lumped in with them. Don’t know about the other one though – unless it’s Crazy Town the other candidates I have in mind don’t strike me as particularly of the genre. Pop Punk is a broader church and maybe I’m not thinking in the right area as a result (since 102 says terms as one or the other)

  16. 106
    CarsmileSteve on 24 Aug 2015 #

    #75 …and let’s not forget the Judgement Night soundtrack!

    At glastonbury this year, I happened upon Wheel Of Four Tunes, a disco where they spin a wheel and play four tunes from that genre. Anyway “rock” was the genre and they played some foo fighters and ace of spades and THEN rollin’ came on and the group of late 20s otherwise relatively sensible looking lads next to me knew EVERY WORD and sang (and did the moves) loudly and lustily, much to the hilarity of the rest of the field…

  17. 107
    fivelongdays on 25 Aug 2015 #

    And strength to their elbows, I say. Which reminds me of a point I forgot to make

    *It’s a better pop song than anything The Smiths ever did.

  18. 108
    Tommy Mack on 27 Aug 2015 #

    Keep trollin’ trollin’ trollin’…

  19. 109
    James BC on 7 Sep 2015 #

    Fifteen years on, I still don’t understand what the DJ was doing in the band. Was it just a gimmick, or was the DJ a big part of their sound? Only live, or only on record, or both? Which sounds in Rollin’ are coming from the DJ? Do some modern-day bands still have DJs (outside of hip-hop) in or has the whole idea turned out to be a dead end musically?

    Any light that can be shed is much appreciated.

    (This song isn’t my thing but it added massively to the Undertaker’s gimmick, making him seem genuinely exciting and rebellious and impressively current.)

  20. 110
    Steve Mannion on 7 Sep 2015 #

    DJ Legend is credited as co-producer of the track along with Durst (for some time I mistakenly thought Ross Robinson was involved) and presumably provided the scratching/cut-up effects (“throw your hands up” etc.) directly.

  21. 111
    Andrew Farrell on 7 Sep 2015 #

    I never realised, until reading up on this, that this is DJ Lethal’s second big group – he was in House of Pain before this!

  22. 112
    Tommy Mack on 7 Sep 2015 #

    #111, I think that’s why Eminem fell out with Durst: Em had beef with Everlast and by extension Lethal and by extension Durst. Peevish chap, Eminem…

  23. 113
    Cumbrian on 30 Sep 2015 #

    I’ll just leave this here (misspelling in the url and all):

    http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/sep/30/rage-against-the-machine-bassist-i-apologise-for-limp-bizit

  24. 114
    Patrick Mexico on 22 Dec 2015 #

    You’d better get some better beats, and er.. get some other disputed Eastern European territories.

    I’m trying to think of a terrible Franz Ferdinand pun, but that’s still three years off.

    http://www.nme.com/news/limp-bizkit/90465

  25. 115
    AMZ1981 on 11 May 2016 #

    Just realised I never answered the direct question Fivelongdays asked me in #104. The non nu metal song by a nu metal artist was Follow Me by Uncle Kracker.

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