If not for The Undertaker I might have been largely ambivalent toward Limp Bizkit. I know Fred Durst was the punchline to every joke about nu metal (a/k/a rap rock) for large parts of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, but nothing about the group was overtly offensive. Durst wasn’t a great rapper but he wasn’t fronting like he was — he was just fronting a group as their lead vocalist. His bars were simply the gasoline for Wes Borland (guitar), Sam Rivers (bass) and John Otto (drums) to fuel Limp Bizkit’s engine. I even gave the group a little bit of hip-hop credibility for having DJ Lethal (formerly of House of Pain) as their turntablist. Unfortunately as a wrestling fan I had to endure the “BikerTaker” era where Mark Calaway rode a motorcycle to the ring each week accompanied by “Rollin'” each time.
The song may be good the first time you hear it, possibly tolerable the tenth time you hear it, but by the hundredth time you’ve absolutely had enough. The inanity of Durst’s rap lyrics becomes impossible to ignore. “One two three times two to the six/jonesing for your fix of the Limp Bizkit mix.” He accentuates the horrendous bars by seemingly undergoing puberty in every verse, his voice cracking and jumping octaves at random, and then hearing him scream “hands up now hands down” in the chorus becomes sonic torture that would be banned by the Geneva Convention. What’s sad is I actually liked Undertaker getting to ditch the “Dead Man” gimmick for a while and just be a badass, but this incessant song nearly ruined it.
It might seem obvious that I would hate “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” after being inundated with “Rollin'” millions of times… but the truth is a little more complicated. In fact if I had to pick any Limp Bizkit song I don’t mind hearing more than once, “My Way” would be at the top of the list. Durst sings for most of the track, saving his squeaky shouting for the song’s chorus, and it actually seems to meld into the crunchy rock riffs perfectly. Hearing DJ Lethal scratch the classic Rakim line “check out my melody” repeatedly on the song gives the whole presentation a nice extra bit of flavor that never cease to make me smile. And for a guy who was the butt of every joke about meaningless lyrics, “My Generation” is surprisingly profound and timeless. Durst bemoans the fact older people blame the young for everything wrong in the world. Some things never change.
Having never listened to this album from start to finish before this review, I was also surprised that the “Intro” to “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” is actually the entrance music that MMA fighter Tito Ortiz has been using for most of his career. Since Durst is not actually singing on the song, I never even realized it was Limp Bizkit, and Ortiz even got them to change the lyrics from “Limp Bizkit, is in the house” to “Tito, is in the house” just for him. That’s fresh.
I know by popular consensus this is supposed to be a bad Limp Bizkit album generally and a bad album period, but I’m having a hard time finding an AVGN-like level of rage with which to take a dump on it. In fact hearing Xzibit on “Getcha Groove On” has the opposite effect. There’s clearly a level of respect within the group for hardcore hip-hop and real rap artists, and whether that was instilled by having DJ Lethal on the wheels of steel or just a natural tendency of a group that loved both rap and rock music, it’s appreciated all the same. “Step the fuck back! Xzibit’s on the track.” Those are some of the truest words Fred Durst ever said.
And just about the time I was ready to be completely done with “Rollin'” for the rest of my life, Limp Bizkit came back with the “Urban Assault Vehicle” remix featuring DMX, Method Man and Redman over a brand new track by Swizz Beatz. Durst’s vocals are still all over the place, but since he’s no longer the sole focus of the song, it’s a whole hell of a lot better.
The biggest drawback of “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” is its length. At over an hour in length (not counting re-issues and international versions that bloated it even further) the group simply overstays its welcome. Tracks like “Full Nelson” are too much, with Durst screeching “You’ll get knocked the fuck out! Cause your mouth wrote a check that your ass can’t cash.” Ironically it’s the kind of bravado I would expect from the trash talking Huntington Beach Bad Boy, which might be a case of great minds (or extraordinarily large heads) thinking alike. “Hold On” is a strange duet with the late Scott Weiland that actually holds on far too long — falling just short of the six minute mark. That’s still better than the titular “Hot Dog” song though, and the less said about it the better.
In summary “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” is neither the horrible abomination to music that critics of both rap and rock have railed against, not does it suddenly in retrospect become an undiscovered gem unappreciated in its own time. The album is largely exactly what Limp Bizkit was at the height of their career — capable of a few crossover hits and memorable moments, yet also bordering on obnoxious enough that you’d like them to go away. The polarization of people for and against Fred Durst was ultimately what fueled his success. Much like Howard Stern the people who loved him tuned in to see what he’d do next, and the people who hated him wound up doing the exact same thing.