Sign up for our free newsletter

These are dangerously frivolous times. Consider the following pieces of evidence:

Exhibit A: At press time, the country has apparently had enough of economic prosperity and at least vaguely progressive social policy to be poised to elect, to the highest office in the land, a man who didn’t have a serious job until he was 40 and has executed 145 people during a mere six years as governor of Texas. Some pundits are even predicting an Electoral College landslide, a nightmare scenario that leads to this political season’s most serious question: Where the hell is Ross Perot when you need him?

Exhibit B: Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, the new album by metal rappers Limp Bizkit, entered the charts at—you guessed it—No. 1, a “Hot Shot” Billboard debut that could hardly be considered surprising. Significant Other, the band’s previous album, has sold 6 million copies so far, and, after more than 70 weeks on the charts, appears headed for permanent-resident status. Which proves that this remains the golden era of the boy band. Although Limp Bizkit plays id to its peers’ superegos, the group is a boy band through and through, frolicking, for instance, in the top five of Total Request Live with the likes of ‘N Sync, the Backstreet Boys, and Ricky Martin—who, in this company, is starting to look suspiciously like an old man. If you do the math (and the psychoanalysis), it works out this way: ‘N Sync’s Justin Timberlake is to Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst as Britney Spears is to Lil’ Kim. Trading cards, anyone?

But at least in the cases of the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync, no one in the band makes any pretense about social significance. Limp Bizkit, however, comes with pretense aplenty. Ringleader Durst doesn’t rap so much as he seethes, about women, and, y’know, fucked-up shit, and, y’know, women. On the new disc, Durst even cops the sacrosanct title of a genuine three-minute masterpiece of social rebellion—the Who’s “My Generation”—for his own lameass, Korn-y lament about adults who don’t care about his generation. But why would they? If Durst is its voice (please, God, no), then Mike Judge should bring Butt-head back just long enough to smack Durst on the head and tell him to shut up.

Conveniently maladjusted but suspiciously well-versed in the ways of the music biz, Durst is a depressingly contemporary “rebel”: a careerist with attitude. If only he had chosen to be an accountant. Limp Bizkit has already seen that legally tolerated payola can benefit the bottom line. (The band’s label, Flip/Interscope, paid a Portland, Ore., radio station to play Limp Bizkit back in 1998.) And one Chocolate Starfish track, the Nine Inch Nails tribute “Hot Dog,” finds Durst counting up (accurately) the number of times he’s said “fuck” in the song: “If I say ‘fuck’ two more times,” Durst exclaims, “that’s 46 ‘fucks’ in this fucked-up rhyme!” You go, boy.

But how’s the album? The answer is: It depends. If you’re up for yet another 75 minutes of turgid rap-metal leavened (I guess) by occasional forays into generic, Bush-like alterna-rock, you’ll love it. If not, you’ll probably think Chocolate Starfish is the worst, which it most definitely is.

True, the beats—as tweaked by the amazing DJ Lethal—are occasionally imaginative. “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)” combines a stuttering snare-drum-driven verse with a sludgy chorus that Rob Zombie or even the Melvins would be proud to call their own. Method Man, DMX, and Redman are also on hand to contribute some misplaced credibility and genuinely cool rhyming to the track. The disc’s best cut, though, is “Take a Look Around,” which lifts a frenetically throbbing bass line and a three-note guitar riff straight from the Mission: Impossible theme and then turns the drum machine’s speed dial sharply to the right. It’s positively blissful, the perfect sound forever—so good, in fact, that it inspires a rare moment of heightened clarity for Durst, who finally identifies himself (again, accurately) as “an idiot, a loser, a microphone abuser.”

My point exactly. With Durst at the helm, Limp Bizkit, even at its best, never produces anything that Kid Rock or Eminem couldn’t put across with more humor and, at the very least, some semblance of human feeling. But, belying—or perhaps explaining—his position as a senior vice president at Interscope, Durst is thoroughly one-dimensional, a professionally pissed-off 28-year-old teenage boy ranting about things like “fake-ass titties on a fucked-up chest” in a histrionic voice that has just two modes: helium-tinged and Marshall-stacked. And if you don’t like it, well, you can just get down and kiss his chocolate starfish. Heh heh.

These, I’ll remind you, are dangerously frivolous times, and, semiresponsible concerned citizen that I am, I feel obliged to try to keep false hope alive. So consider this: While it’s true that the clock appears to be running out for Al Gore’s presidential aspirations, there is, mercifully, still plenty of time not to buy Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. On Tuesday, and every day thereafter, don’t buy this record. It’s your civic duty. CP