Arts Desk

Posse On Clownway: ICP Reviewed


Whining about invisible haters has become an empty cliche but when Insane Clown Posse calls themselves "the most hated band" it's hard to argue. On a critical level ICP might genuinely be the most loathed musical act of our generation. I don't even think Tom Breihan likes them. Which is odd because they've always struck me as simply inoffensive and serviceable rock-rappers who found an incredibly loyal audience and catered directly to them. There's no fault in that, really. But self proclaimed smart people hate them in the purest sense of the world. This is mostly because they and their very loyal fans are guilty of being poor and wearing face paint and building a community and all those other anti-intellectual and unironic fun things that bands used to do with/for their fans BPF*. Basically they are the Kiss of today, it's just that the demographic that is willing to buy into that type of world has narrowed dramatically. I blame the internet.

ICP's tenth studio album, Bang! Pow! Boom!** dropped on Tuesday and it warranted further investigation for a couple reasons. One, their recent festival turned internet meme The Gathering of the Juggalos seemed like the greatest place on earth, despite ill informed derision from certain poverty demonizing stuff white people like type elitists. (If drinking cheap soda and listening to is Scarface is wrong then I don't want to be right.) But, perhaps more interesting than that was the wikipedia claim that Violent J "listened to music by the psychedelic rock band Gong for inspiration" while making this album. Which means he has better taste in music than Jay-Z.

Hit the jump for some quick thoughts on my first ICP full length. Woop woop!

Sadly B!P!B! is not a psych rock album by any means, but you can hear the band reaching in all these disparate directions in terms of production. They leap around from quirky dance hop to epically dark prog moves. Then a few of these tracks basically sound like the B-52's with bad rapping. And everything is anchored by an intense loyalty to their carnival theme: bouncy beats and mean calliope workouts.

It's all incredibly playful. How conservative ICP detractors can paint them as devil musicians bent on destroying the world is beyond me. Sure, they are vulgar, but nobody is really offended by the word "bitch" anymore, are they? This stuff is evil like a haunted house or a halloween hayride is. Good times Satanism. The Marilyn Mansons of the world actually pretended to be serious about their menace, ICP aren't trying to fool anyone and I think their fans understand this. They are like Weird Al for kids who were too gothy to get into Weird Al but weren't all that serious about wiccaism either. There's even a modern day "Monster Mash" on here in "Zombie Slide," which involves the chorus "can you freak the moves that we bust?" on here. It actually kinda jams. Hopefully some creative Juggalos will come up with a Soulja Boy style dance craze in response.

They only get truly taboo on "To Catch a Predator," where J and Shaggy play Chris Hansens to "pedophile butt-knockers." Except instead of simply mocking them on national television they tie the perps up in their basement and torture them unspeakably. Even this is augmented by a pretty hilarious adlibs and a back and forth scratch routine of the phrases "wh-what's in the bag?" and "f-f-funyons and condoms." There's also a song about befriending a dead body Weekend at Bernie's style and a few about raucous sexual acts, but beyond that it all seems pretty tame in '09.

Thematically and musically it's not that far removed from a later day Eminem album, except with vastly inferior rapping. And a slightly different approach to white trash social commentary. Eminem's was personalized – what's wrong with his life, his family. This sort of thing appeals to rockist critics because self loathing and self analysis is all very rock n roll. ICP's take on neo-hillbillyism is outward. They berate the meth heads and deadbeats and molesters in the community while building their own circle of "enlightened" peers who are able to rise above it. They are like the 5%ers of white trash. This doesn't resonate with wealthy rock critics for obvious reasons.

So really one's enjoyment of this record (and Juggalo culture as a whole) hinges entirely on their tolerance for subpar Vincent Price meets Kid Rock whisper to a scream rap and vulgar finger pointing white trash humor. I'm starting to come around to both so I give it three and a half 20 oz. Faygo bottles out of five.

Favorite tracks: "Freaky Creep Show***," "To Catch a Predator," "Vera Lee."

* Before Pitchfork.
**Shaggy and J are probably crushed that Black Eyed Peas stole their onomatopoeius song title thunder this summer. (Of course not as angry as The Real Roxanne, though watching her one time rival's web of lies unravel has probably helped sooth those wounds)
***Like many of their albums Bang! Pow! Boom! was released in a multi colored series of special editions, each with its own unique tracklisting. If forced to decide I'd say go for the Red Cover, which is the only one with "Freaky Creep Show." But then the green version has a "Cha Cha Slide" parody entitled "Chop Chop Slide." So it's a toss up.

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  • Tony

    It's Bang Pow Boom dumbass...
    I can tell you never actually listened to the cd.

  • Sarah Godfrey

    "Posse On Clownway" completely made my day

  • opqaue_brother

    hahaha bang pow zoom tisk tisk...wrong.

  • Andrew Noz


  • quan

    It sounds like you wrote the review just as much to criticize PForkians as to actually review the music. Not a good look

  • Josh

    Nice to see a critic that seems like he actually listened to the album , instead of filling up his ICP article with the same ol spin about juggalos, they wear face paint cause they are hiding, bla bla bla. I disagree there rapping being sub-par, Shaggy has one of the best voices in rap and Violent J has excellent comedic delivery, which you obviously picked up on in To Catch A Predator.

    Unfortunately as a fan for ten years I have had to battle smug and smarmy critics by defending ICP. Most of you simply don't get it,you bash it, and then write up a full page article the next week about the greatness of Nickleback. I think most of you are more worried about appealing to mass opinion of ICP than honoring your duties as objective critics. Or maybe you do & still dont like them. Doesn't matter. Music is not a math problem and can not be graded on a scale, it's a matter of taste. And by and large most critics take the easy way out and protect their "integrity" with easy choices like John Mayer, but would never take a chance on ICP.

  • MZA

    " They are like the 5%ers of white trash."

    that was fantastic

  • Your mom

    what the hell is 5%ers??? is that supposed to be a bad thing? well the reason I probably don't know who they are or what that is, is due to the fact that I am very picky when it comes to my music. I want entertainment. I can't stand to listen to songs that don't offer a message or at least some comedy! Most mainstream now a day just sound all the same rock and rap(MOST!) Ne one can make a Phat beat that can get your head bobing, but few people can make you listen to the music just for the lyrics and the message... That is why I love every album ICP and the rest of the Hatchet Family puts out! oh and for the dude that wrote this, why didn't you say ne thing about the funny ass skits they have hidden all over the album? that last one with shaggy and the cop is the funniest thing I have heard in a long time!

    Yo momma!!!

  • Bryan

    Well this is just wonderful: defending music you clearly dislike just because you want to demonstrate your allegiance to the proletariat.

    So if I understand the formulation, it goes like this: "Stuff poor people like is good. Stuff middle-class people like is bad."

    Hey - hold on a minute! I just realized that you're a wealthy rock critic! So I should believe the opposite of what you say, right? Oh god, it's so confusing...

  • Andrew Noz

    "Hey – hold on a minute! I just realized that you’re a wealthy rock critic!"

    Tell it to my pants pocket.

  • wrezhu

    I love this article and the lulzy juggalo responses. ICP appeals to my inner /b/tard and backyard wrestler. If I'm buying weed from a juggalo, i prefer The Great Milenko.
    also very funny. I kind of want to go to the Gathering.

  • D.O.

    This is a great review. I actually listened to the album after I read this and came back and read it again. There are parts that remind me a bit of a dirtier, more irreverent Smashmouth. There were parts that made me laugh, too, which was pretty surprising. From what I've heard on youtube, I think I prefer The Amazing Jeckel Brothers to B!P!B!, but I wouldn't make someone turn it off if they had it on.

    The idea of anyone being a "wealthy rock critic" is pretty damn funny. Also Noz is a rap critic, guys.

  • Josh F

    I hate these god damn critcs that talk shit about juggalos and ICP yes everybody that listens to ICP realized that Bang Pow Boom was a horrible album but had some great songs. What pisses me off even more is that people can talk about killing themselves and cutting themselves on the radio but ICP cannot rap about killing racists and people who beat their wives without people freaking out about it or it being inapproaite

  • Brittney

    True that Josh We all have these opionions on killing child beaters Child malesters hence C.P.K on hells pit. But people publicly voice these opionions are evil and youth shouldnt listen to that fuck that everything these guys say make sence and to whom that depepends on whether your a juggalo/ juggalette. The hidden messege of family and all juggalos coming together as one it gives us who came up from shit hope. On a light note my daughter is hypt up on chocolate dancing to icp Witching hour

  • Brittney

    Not to mention they are Christian men also so those think their evil go fuck your self hahahahhaha Clown love peeps