Nothing's Shocking

Jonathan Davis's great bond with his fans is an adolescent agony he's never gotten over. After trademarking the debut with a cover depicting a little girl about to be raped or murdered in a playground, an image far more open to misinterpretation than ''Faget'' (''Cool!'' ''Heavy!'' ''Wow!''), he took to blowing off against child abuse. But unlike such rock assholes as Axl Rose he doesn't claim he was physically abused himself, and he wouldn't justify his own ill behavior if he did. Instead he obsesses on a coroner's assistant job he ''jumped at'' when he was 17: ''I thought, 'Oh, it'll be cool to see a dead body,' but I didn't realize I'd fall in love with it. And I did.'' On the new ''Dead Bodies Everywhere,'' he links this not unsexy nightmare to his fear of father: ''You really want me to be a good son/Why? You make me feel like no one.'' Fans knew those words, and why not? They're the story of many kids' lives for a while. But though how much the same fans identify with ''My Gift to You'' (''I kiss your lifeless skin''), ''Cameltosis'' (''You trick-ass slut''), or the tragic ''Seed'' (''Do I need this fame?'') remains unclear, I'm parent enough to hope they can find a more fully formed designated someone than a guy whose idea of transgressive art is netcasting soft-core s/m to any teenager with a logon.

Often bands I admire attract fans I don't. The Beasties crowds I've mingled with, for instance, have seemed too hip to be so fucking belligerent. I preferred the youthful enthusiasm at Family Values, where interest in s/m remained distinctly spectatorial. I'm sure that for them Korn represents a passage out of innocence, a virtue Davis is so set on dissing he actually wrote a song attacking Mr. Rogers. But they haven't lost all of it, and here's hoping they never will. What holds back bands like Korn, Marilyn Manson, and White Zombie isn't how much they've been made to suffer. Louis Armstrong grew up in the streets; George Jones's dad used to whip him until he sang. It's their inability to put it behind them, and their determination to convince themselves and everyone else that their truths have made them free.

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