It’s been an actual whole decade since we last got a full album of new material from nu metal’s perennial whipping boys, Limp Bizkit. When they reformed in 2009, the response bordered on fevered excitement – go check out footage of their Download set (opens in new tab) from that year for proof that people had genuinely missed this band, and 2011’s Gold Cobra did just about enough to keep that interest going. A smattering of Bizkit's trademark obnoxious, bouncy, fun and ludicrous rap rock was of a significantly high quality, but it was strewn amongst some pretty clunky and questionable choices.
But, broadly speaking, Limp Bizkit had been re-evaluated and, yes actually, people were happy they were back. A year later they left longtime record label Interscope, signed to hip hop label Cash Money Records, home of Nikki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne to name a few, and began working on the follow-up to Gold Cobra, titled Stampede Of The Disco Elephants.
It was due out later that year, but instead we’ve had a decade of bandmembers leaving and coming back, the odd song being released here and there, another label change, lots of great live shows and Fred Durst breaking the internet by dressing up like a suburban, middle-aged, 1970s Dad, It all lead to Stampede Of The Disco Elephants being christened the “Nu metal Chinese Democracy”.
All of this context means that, as with Chinese Democracy, there is understandable excitement, expectation and pressure surrounding the now-titled Still Sucks (they got us!), none of which the record ever had a hope in hell of living up to.
It should be said, that's where any useful comparison with Chinese Democracy ends, because as good as Limp Bizkit are at their chosen craft, they were never going to be able to make an album of such labyrinthian madness and sonic breadth that Axl Rose attempted. Nor should they even have tried. What you want from Limp Bizkit is instantaneous, dumb, groove-filled bangers that make even the most sensible of people swing their crotch about, chuck their drinks all over themselves and aggressively wave their arms around without the merest hint of irony.
There is, however, genuine quality here. In Wes Borland they have a brilliantly unique and imaginative guitar player, his riffs on this record still rhythmically and tonally unlike anyone else operating in metal today. They have one of the tightest rhythm sections in music too; bassist Sam Rivers and drummer John Otto are masters at creating a lucid yet irresistible groove that underpins much of the madness that goes on around it.
Then there's Fred Durst – a man who’s hardly blessed with the most incredible voice, the most imaginative flow, or a mind that can conjure lyrics of moving or insightful quality… and yet, somehow manages to be instantly recognisable. He finds hooks from places that at first appear beyond him, but will burrow themselves into your brain within a listen and a half. His lyrics are often nonsensical, but they remain so quintessentially Durst that he makes them work, forging the kind of unmistakeable identity that eluded so many of Limp Bizkit's peers.
The success and your enjoyment of Still Sucks will definitely depend on your mindset going in. From the opening Out Of Style, where Durst describes his style as ‘fresh’ over the most clichéd of scratches from DJ Lethal, and a great Borland riff, you’ll know if you’re onboard.
There's plenty on Still Sucks to placate anyone who just wants to nod their head and idly goof along with them. Out Of Style and the following Dirty Rotten Bizkit are both massive rock songs that will fit snugly in amongst Nookie and Rollin’ in the Bizkit live set. Dad Vibes is a slightly more relaxed tune, feeling like it’s cut from the same cloth as 90s one-hit wonders like Len’s Steal My Sunshine or Brann Van 3000’s Drinking In LA, albeit in a Limp Bizkit style. The Cypress Hill-isms of Turn It Up, Bitch are perfectly adequate as well.
It’s only really when Durst gets a little too serious for his own good that things take a turn for the worse. The acoustic cover of INXS’s Don’t Change falls into the same trap as Bizkit’s version of The Who’s Behind Blue Eyes. Taking songs from world-class bands and trying to ape their craft and gravitas couldn’t be any further from their strong point. Durst also sounds like he’s trying to do his own version of Bleach-era Nirvana on Barnacle, which, again, isn’t really what you come to Limp Bizkit for. But to their credit they do a decent job of it, only to lose you once again when the acoustic guitars come out on the plodding Empty Hole.
It’s certainly better to hear Limp Bizkit embrace their most primal and unsavoury elements. Pill Popper is arguably as heavy as they’ve sounded since their debut album. Three Dollar Bill, Y’all. Snacky Poo is classic Durst bravado and self-aggrandising – not really making any sense but being super-catchy all the same. Meanwhile, You Bring Out The Worst In Me is the broadest use of the classic build-and-boom dynamics of classic nu metal on the record.
Love The Hate is a hater-embracing version of Eminem and Dr Dre’s Guilty Conscience without the lyrical dexterity, and the closing Goodbye sounds a bit like a Justin Timberlake b-side from 2005. Neither are terrible, but, much like a lot of this record, it’s hard to know how it took them this long to come up with something so oddly goofy.
But, again, this comes down to expectations. If you’ve been staring at your calendar and refreshing the Limp Bizkit official website (opens in new tab) for a decade in anticipation for Stampede Of The Disco Elephants, then 32 minutes of often silly, often misguided but often very catchy rap-rock might not be enough to satisfy you. If you’re just happy to have a few more Limp Bizkit songs to jump up and down to the next time their party rolls into town, then you’ve got your wish.
Limp Bizkit do still suck. They still rock, confuse, confound, entertain and confuse as much as ever as well. Even with a 10-year wait, that’ll surely do, won’t it?
Limp Bizkit's Still Sucks is out now via Suretone Records