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.
* 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.