And yet, despite this, when I recently listened to the band’s biggest-selling albums, 1999’s Significant Other and 2000’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, I experienced an unexpected sensation: pleasure. Ten years after the band’s disastrous Woodstock ’99 performance—the one that made them synonymous in the popular imagination with the brutes in the audience who brawled, torched, and (according to a chilling eyewitness report) gang-raped while the band played—it’s harder to hear in Limp Bizkit’s churning bars either the vital threat or the cause for despair they once seemed to contain. What’s revealed is a band at once more stupid, more fun, and more interesting than history has given it credit for. Heard today, Fred Durst is best appreciated as a complex comedic creation: An oblivious, incompetent, impotent, sad, tantrum-throwing, ultimately hilarious man-child, a guy who wears a backward cap to hide his bald spot and—get this—raps! Eternally aggrieved and eternally spiteful, Durst threatens to punch someone in the face, it seems, every other song—the knuckle sandwich is his emotional lingua franca. Sometimes his antagonists’ transgressions are left vague: “Hot Dog” is a 360-degree bile spray (“Fucked-up moms and fucked-up dads,/ a fucked-up cop with a fucked-up badge …”). Other times, Durst details his grievances in all their laughable banality: “I’m Broke” is an agonized, virulent screed … about cheapskates who borrow money and don’t repay it. “Don’t make me have to call a sniper,” Durst threatens one debtor. It’s an absurd, adolescent taunt that makes me chuckle every time I hear it—and I can’t imagine Durst doesn’t chuckle a bit at it, too.
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