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Not for a long time has a long mane signified rebellion, but cascading tresses at the very least once helped to camouflage a certain naïveté among young men who made rock ‘n’ roll. In spite of its postcubist goatees and slew of cryptic tattoos, the menace of new metal—a/k/a the sound of young America slamming its bedroom doors—doesn’t seem a whole lot more diabolical than spring break: Close-cropped hairstyles expose the baby faces beneath. And while Fred Durst has been furrowing his brow since Woodstock ’99, striving to beat down all those pluckier competitors, his callow new call-to-arms, “My Generation,” sounds coated with mildew. The anthem makes Limp Bizkit—three years into their recording career—sound less likely to incite teen insurgency than the Who were as late as 1982.
OK, perhaps a 12-syllable album title needn’t automatically point to a profound piece of art. Durst, however, did foreshadow a fresh dimension on last summer’s sinuous commission for Mission: Impossible 2. “Take a Look Around” exposed him as more neurotic than numskulled, equal parts 2Pac and Public Image Ltd., struggling to unshackle himself from the straitjacket he’d sewn. Although the M:I2 theme was nothing the rhythm section of U2 couldn’t slap together in an afternoon, Durst was apparently primed to wrap up his reign as the pied piper of hooliganism. But much as his guru Ben Stiller (“Everything and more than I expected,” read the new album’s liner notes, “you are a major inspiration to me and a wonderful person”) needs to be typecast as a bumbling suitor to have a hit, Durst’s own flirting with disaster has since returned to a state of reckless disregard for what comes after.
So, the first fusillade on Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water is supposedly pointed at Trent Reznor, dragged into the TRL death-match for smashing Durst’s red-capped mug in effigy during last year’s inconsequential Nine Inch Nails vidclip for “Starfuckers Inc.” But in fact, this agitated-opening rout, “Hot Dog,” sounds more like a Bloodhound Gang outtake (“If I say fuck two more times/That’s 46 fucks in this fucked up rhyme”) than the sort of bottle-rubbing brawn a broad like Christina Aguilera needs. All of Durst’s braying about being picked on, backed by players who think funk describes a smell better than a sound, proves self-deprecation isn’t bred well in Jacksonville. Pariah status hasn’t boosted his libido one bit—female advances would be better spent on Rob Halford. If his heart was being thrown into the blender during days of “Nookie,” it is now in the process of being minced by the Iron Chef.
Compared to the postcarnal carnival of Significant Other, the he-said-she-said bullshit hardly factors on Chocolate Starfish—Durst fleetingly ponders finding his potential soul mate on “The One,” although with no greater intensity than a glassy-eyed strip club patron. But neutered nuances aside, Limp Bizkit don’t resist generating at least one of the sort of chorus-driven kicks for which Salt-N-Pepa could once be counted on: “Rollin’ ” has its mettle tested in its bonus “Urban Assault Vehicle” remix, where Method Man and Redman reprise their gallant appearances on “N 2 Gether Now” alongside thrustmaster DMX, whose dissonance outcrunches the Kentucky-fried discord of the original version. It exemplifies how Durst works better as a marauding toastmaster than a bellowing bandleader. The closest Limp Bizkit come to cohesive five-piece synergy is “Livin’ It Up,” at least until you realize that the rowdy backing vocals, lifted from “Life in the Fast Lane” by the Eagles, are actually sampled. (A timely shout-out to Don Henley, too—recently sued for allegedly whacking a female fan on the noggin with his maraca.)
Moreover, the Chocolate Starfish tracks that do ascend from Limp Bizkit’s cesspool are both duets. “Getcha Groove On” features Xzibit in an MC battle flecked with delectable Loverboy keyboards, ideal drapery for Durst’s crackerjacked rap. And after the album plunges into migraine-laden desolation for its excruciating final lap, Scott Weiland surfaces to provide crooning accompaniment to guitarist Wes Borland’s prog-rock elegies. Much as with recent pairings of Mariah and Whitney, or Barbra and Celine, they forget to carve out a tune, instead playing a morbid game of who can pull off the more hysterical Alice in Chains imitation.
On the whole, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water feels like an interminable groan, a harried hustle toward obsolescence. Rather than creating a cathartic requiem for, say, the impending dotcom depression, this turgid non-effort doesn’t even live up to the mookish reputation refuted with such salacious fervor on “Take a Look Around.” For his part, Durst has no illusions left to use; besides, another of his Hollywood buddies, Mark Wahlberg, packed it in after two albums with the Funky Bunch—and never got promoted to vice presidency at Interscope for his troubles, either. If Durst wants to make a shrewd executive move, he’ll get his own band dropped from the label, and soon.