With their brutal and explicit Significant Other, metal-rappers Limp Bizkit give us a hint of rock's dark and edgy future.
Review by David Browne
June 18, 1999
Exactly how does Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst make it through the day? In nearly every song on the band's second album, Significant Other (out June 22), life is something to be endured, not lived. "It's just one of those days when you don't wanna wake up/Everything is f---ed/ Everybody sucks!" he rants in the aptly named "Break Stuff," in which he's tempted to grab the nearest chain saw to help solve his problems. In other songs, his friends are lying hypocrites ("Trust") who borrow money and never return it ("I'm Broke").
Even when Durst finds love, he eventually rides into the sunset alone. In "Nookie," the album's musical battering ram of a first single, he informs us that his girlfriend didn't just run off with his money but also had sex with all his buds. "I'm just a sucker with a lump in my throat," he bellows, then chastises himself in the chorus: "I did it all for the nookie." If the world isn't frustrating enough, a satanic-voiced spoken-word bit at the end of the album informs us that people are actually buying Backstreet Boys records!
Durst may be a successful rock star with a platinum debut album (Bizkit's '97 Three Dollar Bill, Y'all$), but that doesn't stop him from playing the rock & roll underdog--the guy who feels constantly hammered, suppressed, and taken advantage of, and who uses his band's melding of jackhammer metal and bellicose rap as an outlet for that frustration. (As harsh as this may sound, you can't help but think that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris may have been huge Limp Bizkit fans.) As Durst sings in a lighter moment, upholding a time-honored sentiment, "Music is key/It's the way we're set free/ From all this world is throwin' at me."
A proud by-product of skateboard-metal culture, Significant Other is as grueling and unrelenting as Durst's thoughts. But much more so than the work of Limp Bizkit's brethren in Korn, Significant Other is significant in ways that will make anyone over 35 feel like a relic: It's rock that has absolutely no bond to any music made before, roughly, the dawn of this decade. It takes its cues from hardcore hip-hop (in Durst's rapping and references to LL Cool J), grunge ("Nobody Like You," complete with guest harmonies by Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland), the post-'80s metal of Metallica, and, to a lesser but subtle degree, electronica (the unexpected ambient coda, complete with scratching, of "Rearranged"). The album may begin and close with a parody of Kiss' longtime slogan ("You wanted the worst? You got the worst!" goes the Limp Bizkit version). But overall, Significant Other isn't simply modern rock; it's postmodern rock.
When these various strains come together, it's easy to handle Durst's bellowing. "No Sex," the album's best track, finds Durst again giving in to temptation and then whipping himself for it: "Should have left my pants on this time/But instead you had to let me dive right in!" The music, spooky and airy in the verses and taut and forceful in the chorus, is Limp Bizkit at their most powerful. Similarly, "N2gether," a rap duet between Durst and Wu Tang Clan's Method Man, stands apart, with its angel's-harp-from-hell backdrop. Alas, the band can't resist filler. "Show Me What You Got" is literally a long, boring series of thank you's--to cities, fans, and fellow musicians and bands. And guest-speaker cameos by Primus' Les Claypool and MTV VJ Matt Pinfield are not the kind of tracks that will hold up to repeated listening. (Pinfield's unlisted track is curiously ironic; he rants against the "chart-topping teenybopping disposable happy horses---" that his employer keenly exploits. Perhaps that's why he refers to himself here as "the bald man," in order to avoid corporate punishment.)
Significant Other isn't disturbing because of Durst's stance or feelings. It's because bands like Limp Bizkit represent the future of rock. And what a future: a music and sensibility that's agitated, angry, hostile, wary, and devoid of much nuance. This type of music always existed, but it usually bubbled under the charts. Now it's the mainstream, and it makes you wonder if rock's forever lost that lovin' feeling.