Sometimes, a fresh coat of paint is all you need.
If Fred Durst had emerged at Lollapalooza this year in his usual attire of the red baseball cap, the baggy jeans and the goatee, it would have probably come off as a cheap imitation and a feeble attempt to rekindle the band’s notorious reputation at the head of the festival circuit around the turn of the century. Cosplay, if you will, of a time long gone.
What we got instead, however, was an artist operating on a whole new level of self-awareness. With bushy grey hair, a handlebar moustache and smart-casual chinos, Durst embraced all 50 of his years and won a capacity crowd over. “This ain’t Woodstock 1999,” he said, “but we do want to party like it’s 1999.” The new-look Durst was literally viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses – and when comeback single ‘Dad Vibes’ dropped a few weeks later, it was hard not to share this perspective.
Previous singles released sporadically throughout the 2010s, including the Lil Wayne-assisted ‘Ready to Go’, felt anachronistic and a little desperate with unintentional corniness and ham-fisted writing. ‘Dad Vibes’, however, operates under zero pretence that Limp Bizkit still need to be hard-asses. “Damn, this dad like a river/Flow so cold, need ice to deliver,” Durst hyucks over an incessant, head-nodding DJ Lethal beat. He’s daring you to take him seriously. Once that smile cracks, the floodgates are well and truly open. Listening to Limp Bizkit is fun again, and the whole world needs to know it.
Still Sucks (yes, as in Limp Bizkit Still Sucks) follows on from two albums largely considered misfires in the band’s canon: 2003’s Results May Vary and 2011’s Gold Cobra. The former fell short without Durst’s right-hand man Borland calling the shots; the latter ultimately lost sight of Bizkit’s caveman charm by refining things a little too much. Still Sucks, then, results in being more or less the exact record Durst and co. needed to make in order to keep momentum afloat in the wake of their comeback. After nearly nine years of overthinking and quite literally underdelivering on the oft-delayed (and now more-than-likely scrapped) Stampede of the Disco Elephants project, Still Sucks looks to simultaneously rip off the band-aid and wipe the slate clean. For the most part, it succeeds.
Despite only running some 32 minutes, the redneck fuckers from Jacksonville cover a lot of ground in their blazed comeback trail. Similar to their 2001 album Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavoured Water, the band are impressively versatile beyond their usual nu-metal fare. Sam Rivers’ slinking bassline anchors the boppy ‘Turn It Up, Bitch’, while the surprise acoustic detour of ‘Empty Hole’ recalls their collaboration with the late Scott Weiland, ‘Hold On’. A run at INXS’ ‘Don’t Change’ follows in the footsteps of ‘Faith’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ in the band’s string of unconventional covers. Unlike those, however, this one is run fairly straightforward in a stripped-back acoustic mode. Against all odds, it kind of works. If anyone still carried physical money, you’d flick a few bucks in the guitar case if Durst and Borland were out busking this cover.
That’s not at all to discredit the aforementioned nu-metal fare on Still Sucks, however – in fact, tracks like ‘Dirty Rotten Bizkit’ and ‘You Bring Out the Worst in Me’ allow for the quintet to fire on all cylinders and remind you exactly what their appeal was in the first place. “I need the Bizkit!” Durst barks in the former. You believe him. Hell, with absence making the heart grow fonder, you start to realise you might just need the Bizkit yourself.
Borland’s drop-B alt-metal chaos welcomes listeners right back into the fray on opener ‘Out of Style’, boosted by a splashy John Otto – who’s still fully capable of taking ’em to the Matthews Bridge. “I’m always out of style,” boasts Durst. “Never change my style/’cause my style is kinda fresh.” Here, Durst acknowledges how the tide has turned on nu-metal in the time since Bizkit have been away. Younger audiences have started rocking Korn shirts, zeitgeist-dwelling acts like Poppy and Bring Me the Horizon have borrowed from the genre, and a mass cultural reconsideration has given it newfound reverence in the meme community – only this time it’s laughing with, not at, them.
For all the landings stuck on the album, it’s only fair to acknowledge where Still Sucks falls short. The confusing acoustic pop of ‘Goodbye’, for one, is played far too straight to have any kind of knowing wink attached to it – making for an uncomfortable, awkward end to the record that even Sugar Ray might say is a bit too sweet. The two-step hardcore pastiche of ‘Barnacle’ feels unimaginative, while the one-note joke of ‘Love to Hate’ (a pitched-down Durst conversing with his normal-voiced self over how bad Limp Bizkit are) doesn’t exactly demand repeat listens.
Limp Bizkit haven’t assembled a new classic here, but they never needed to. Consider it like The Strokes’ comeback a year prior: After serving as a beacon of rock music in the early 2000s and being swallowed up by animosity, it’s just worth celebrating the fact they A) survived, B) don’t hate each other anymore, and C) have a formidable new record under their belts that feels like a new beginning. It feels like one of those days again.