FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume Five: Limp Bizkit – Gold Cobra

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume Five: Limp Bizkit - Gold Cobra

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume Five: Limp Bizkit - Gold Cobra

First Impressions is a series of articles in which I listen to a discuss an album considered a ‘Classic’ after hearing it for the first time. This edition of the series isn’t actually about a classic album however, as I had a request to write an article in the First Impressions style about an album which doesn’t fit in with the series’ criteria.

The album in question is Gold Cobra by Limp Bizkit. It was released 2011, and was the first full-length Limp Bizkit studio album in eight years, as well as the first to feature the classic line-up of Durst, Borland, Rivers, Lethal, Otto in eleven years.

Limp Bizkit were a really powerful commercial force for the first three albums of their career, but have met with diminishing returns on what little material has been released in the last decade. Long time fans such as myself were therefore expected to be very excited about this new album which would could the band’s fortunes. I was really looking forward to the album, then they delayed its release by a whole year, released a not particularly exciting track and gave it the ugliest artwork of any album in recent years and I lost interest.

The main reason to be excited was because the stuff they had made since their third album was meant to be rubbish. I liked their underrated fourth album and excellent EP, so that doesn’t wash as much with me, and I file anything else under ‘not a real release/doesn’t count.’ And so as far as I’m concerned this album had nothing to make me rush out on day one, its only defining feature being that it was late.

I had heard a lot about this album before hearing it too, mixed reviews with differing levels of credibility admittedly, but the two biggest (if slightly similar) reoccurring points were essentially ‘It is good for what it is but do remember that it is what it is!’ and ‘If you don’t like Limp Bizkit anyway, this won’t convince you.’

Having heard it now I can say that I fully agree with both points. Everything that is Limp Bizkit is represented on this album, it is not noticeably tailored to break new ground, to win new audiences or to get snobby critic’s respect; it is just good music part of which is melodic, nice and meaningful and part of which is catchy, silly and fun. The only thing that stops that from being a full fledged good thing is when they get a bit too self referential and repeat old lyrics to please old fans with nostalgia, but seeing as my favourite band Jethro Tull do that too, I can’t hold it against Limp Bizkit for long.

The biggest flaw that Limp Bizkit have always had is that Fred Durst has a voice, vocal style and lyrical style that is uncommon in metal and if you don’t like it, it can be a very real barrier to enjoying the band. (Also I suppose that if you really love Hip Hop and hate metal, all the metal would be a barrier too… but why would you be on this blog if you hate metal?)

As it happens, I really like Fred Durst, I like him as an actor as a performer and as a personality up to a point. I believe that hating him was just a meme people indulged in, in the same way that hating Justin Beiber and Twilight is now, in the same way hating St Anger was. It is something that people do for fun, that is entirely disproportionate to the usual and reasonable human reaction to not particularly enjoying some controversial or flawed piece of media.

No matter how much you actually don’t care for the Twilight Francshise, you probably don’t hate it as much as you act like you do and no matter how much you hate Fred Durst and his ‘ugly red hat’ (as if a hat was in anyway relevant to the music or a legitimate thing to criticize) you probably don’t dislike him half as much as you pretend to either.

I like Fred’s voice and performance, but I used to dislike Fred’s lyrics a lot too (Eg. ‘Shit that’s in a diaper’ ‘fake-ass titties’) but realistically, in all fairness there is nothing unusually stupid or unusually tasteless about Limp Bizkit’s lyrics that doesn’t apply to absolutely all the hip-hop and rap lyrics that I have ever heard.

The golden rule of lyric writing within the Rap and Hip Hop genre is (seemingly, to me, an outsider) to rhyme at all costs, and to do so at the expense of melody, pacing, timing, making any sense whatsoever or properly continuing the narrative of the previous sentence, especially not two or three sentences in a row. Rhyming in Hip Hop is considered more important than being coherent or correctly using rhythm and grammar, which is just how it is.

The only way I could describe Hip Hop lyrics to an alien or caveman who had never had any experience of it before (in a situation where I couldn’t just show them some examples and allow them to start spotting patterns) is as a collection of disjointed sentences full of boastful claims and self aggrandizement, empty threats, pop culture references and occasionally humour. Most of these sentences rhyme or almost rhyme depending on the talent of the artist, but even among the greatest artists only some of the sentence count towards the point of the song, with at least a few being pointless asides that add nothing to the point being made or story being told that serve no relevant purpose other than to add another rhyme.

The important thing to remember before judging it too harshly however, is that a hell of a lot of people like that style despite its obvious flaws, aforementioned obvious flaws are ignored and in fact not considered flaws by both the fans and the artists and in all honesty, you get used to it quickly if you allow yourself to.

Some types of music have stricter rules on sentences being linked together, stricter rules about how many words you can fit into a sentence and stricter rules about all sentences being delivered in the exact same rhythm. Hip Hop and Rap do not follow these rules and so I now believe it is unfair to criticize Fred over any lyrical and vocal issues that are a result of being a rapper. He is a rapper, and he is doing what rappers do. Similarly, you can’t fairly hate a horror film for killing all of its characters and not having a happy ending.

I know it seems like a complete cop-out to excuse something its greatest flaw just because ‘that is how it is’ but in this case I’m afraid I’m going to have to. It is all well and good pointing out the flaws but at the end of the day expecting anything else is unrealistic. If you can, and then do actively chose to allow yourself to stop criticizing the lyrics, on the basis that they are supposed to be like that anyway, then there are little to no problems that can be reported about Gold Cobra.

The song on this album that has the most objectionable lyrics for the fan of good taste and subtlety (a category which I fall into in most other cases) is actually also the absolute best track on the album. The song is called ‘Douchebag’ and the chorus is ‘Douchebag, I’ma fuck you up, fuck you fuck you fuck you up.’ I am sure that people who really dislike the band would use this as a specific example of why they are bad, but it is just so good IN CONTEXT that I think that it would unfair to criticize them over it. Perhaps beyond unfair, maybe even missing the entire point.

The one part where I have to put on my hypocrite hat and sit on the one-set-of rules-for-other-people chair however is the spoken word introduction to ‘Autotunage’ that I really dislike. In it, he acts out discovering an autotuner and then deciding to put it in a Limp Bizkit song. Skits between songs are an accepted part of Hip Hop albums in my experience, but even at that it feels too out of place on this particular album to the point where I feel criticism is acceptable. I think the album would come across as being a lot better had it been absent.

Liking, or at least not being unnecessarily critical of Fred Durst makes me predisposed to enjoying Gold Cobra, but it is not the only factor involved. Limp Bizkit albums aren’t just silence with Hip Hop lyrics after all.

One thing I have always had a problem with Limp Bizkit albums, is that I only ever like about half of the songs on them, the ratio of enjoyment to non-enjoyment isn’t especially high. I do enjoy their heaviest moments and I do enjoy the aforementioned melodic artistic moments when they try and channel Tool without actually sounding anything like them (such as ‘Walking Away’ on this album or ‘Boiler,’ ‘Down Another Day’ and ‘Rearranged’ in the past)
Most of the rest however, just isn’t to my tastes at all and never has been. I especially never like the songs that are either all Hip Hop with no metal cross over or songs with guest rappers. I don’t resent the band for including it on any intellectual level, but do seem physically unable to enjoy it myself.

The only song on Gold Cobra that actually falls into that category is ‘Get A Life’ and therefore Gold Cobra is probably the most consistent and enjoyable Limp Bizkit album to date and the album of theirs best suited to my own tastes.

Despite this, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it is the best Limp Bizkit album to date. Songs like ‘Why Try’ and ‘Douchebag’ are very good and there aren’t many songs that I could call bad in any way whatsoever or even that I would skip when listening to it again in the future, but there aren’t may tracks that I would say are as high as the high points on the other albums.

There is nothing wrong with ‘The Killer In Me,’ ‘Shotgun,’ ‘Gold Cobra,’ or ‘90.2.10’ (apart of course from lyrics like ‘have you shitting in your motherfucking underwear’ and that I have already excused) and the musicianship from Wes and Jon especially is commendable, but they aren’t as larger than life and exceptional as some moments in the band’s back catalogue. Nothing causes a teenage grin of sheer excitement like the fast part of ‘Life In The Fast Lane,’ the breakdown in ‘My Generation’ or the heavy riff in ‘Head For The Barricade.’

The only few niggles with the album are getting over the lyrics, the aforementioned autotunage skit (although only having one, and a brief one at that is a plus) and the curious case of the lyric ‘Golden Cobra’ being used in the chorus of the song ‘Gold Cobra’ on the album entitled Gold Cobra. I’d be tempted to ask ‘Is it Gold or Golden? Make up your mind!’ but its really such an inconsequential niggle that it isn’t worth it. Unless of course you sneak it in anyway like I just did right there!

Furthermore, the intro seems unnecessary; but again, that happens on every one of their albums apart from The Unquestionable Truth anyway and so can’t really be considered all that much of a flaw. It is just part of the Limp Bizkit style and simply what they do. As a fan who doesn’t like that one sub-section of their style it is easy to compartmentalize it away from being considered a part of the actual album.

Overall; having heard it all the way through once now, my first impression is that Gold Cobra is a completely enjoyable and well-made album that is expertly produced and abnormally consistent for the band. In a sane and logical world I would call it the best thing they have ever done, but in the emotionally driven world of music listening which runs entirely on moon-logic, it falls just short of it.

That being said, I was half-expecting a car wreck based on some of the negative reviews I’d heard, both from long time haters and long time fans, and it is so far in the other direction I can scarcely understand why anyone would legitimately feel that way.

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  1. First off, I think your Twilight point is unfair considering I’ve seen the first movie and hate it for MORE than it gets criticised for by The Internet, though I can take it as appoint about general bandwagon jumper by idiots.

    I think that for the most part Durst is deserving of criticism as he is a total tool (or at least was back in the day) and if he isn’t now, he ACTS like he is just to complete the LB package. The little pepper of ‘fuck you’s on the title track just before the lyrics kick in and the “Auto-Tunage” intro (which I quickly deleted) are examples of things that feel really forced and designed just to wind up critics and ‘haters’, but also forced in that they probably didn’t even feel they needed them there even AS a joke but stuck ‘em on anyway to cover all their bases.

    Rhyming being a main thing in rap music is not to its detriment. I imagine you haven’t heard enough of it outside of the charts to make this comment fairly, either. It’s the same as with anything, we’re only ever exposed to the most popular form of something and usually it’s become the most popular because its credibility is compromised for the sake of the masses. Lowest common denominator. It’d be like claiming Metallica was representative of all metal, ever. You make out like no rapper has ever had an agenda outside of referencing TV shows and boasting their ego because that’s what’s become popular since we’ve had multiple TV channels in our homes but a lot of why rap got so popular in the 80s had to do with serious political statements being made in an emerging style of music dominated by minorities. SO THERE!

    And Fred COULD be a better rapper, so the faults cannot be swept aside just because he’s a rapper. Similarly, it IS fair to hate a horror film for killing all of its characters and not having a happy ending because it can be done better. Taking the easy option is exactly the sort of thing you should criticise, not defend because it’s ‘the norm’. Fred’s lyrics on this album, though, I think most often come across as desperate attempts to appeal to the old-skool LB audience. At times it sounds like the first album. Mostly though, given the band member’s respective developments since Chocolate Starfish, it seems weird that they’d go back to their brash, Kerrang-courting annoyance instead of making something natural. There’s no evolution on this record.

    No WAY is “Douchebag” better than “Shotgun” (and that’s even with its shit verses) or “Gold Cobra”. The opening of “Gold Cobra” makes me want to, ahem, break stuff.

    Your context point doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because there aren’t rules for criticism, you can’t ignore obvious criticisms of Limp Bizkit just because they’re Limp Bizkit – some who listen to this will be hearing it for the first time, and such a privilege wasn’t afforded to them when the debuted. Not entirely dissimilar to saying “oh, they’ve got AIDS, but that’s alright because they’re Africans” to make a you-esque analogy.

    “Get A Life” is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard on such a big album

    How you can say there’s nothing wrong with “The Killer In Me” is beyond me. I’m surprised it actually closes the album never mind being on there at all. It’s an absolute joke of a song.

    You’re right that there aren’t any bursts of “wow” on this album, though. Some of the songs start amazing but none of them surprises you halfway through.

    Don’t worry, the gold/golden thing bugged the hell out of me too!

    It is essentially the best constructed and least flabby thing they’ve done, which is about the most professional aspect of it, but in its pandering to the older crowd it’s mostly unforgivable. I’m glad I gave it the time so I could criticise it fairly but as a regular listen it’s gone forever.



  2. I definitely haven’t heard enough rap outside the charts, I went out of my way to make it clear I was coming at the point as an uninformed outsider.

    The rest is just opinion and neither of us can be right or wrong, although I would say that I don’t get any particularly strong feelings over the album at all to be honest. I feel the ‘unforgivable’ things are quite forgivable indeed, I feel that the songs I like are better than the songs you like and I feel that Limp Bizkit specific criticisms can be ignored because you are dealing with Limp Bizkit.

    I don’t feel any of those things strongly though, its more of a waft than a stench if you get my meaning.

    I don’t know, I have two opinions about art versus commerce that I always switch between randomly. One is that the bands who are cynical, who deliberately pander and who go out of their way to make money are the smart ones. Its way smarter to be Lady GaGa’s guitarist than it is to be Gorgoreth’s guitarist.
    The second is that bands should strive for whatever is closest to empirically proven quality in this opinion based sphere and that being (as close to) objectively good is the smart move.

    Unquestionable Truth was a smart move in my opinion while I’m feeling point two, Gold Cobra is a smart move when I’m feeling point one.

    I can see feeling Gold Cobra is offensively pandering in a few months when my opinion randomly shifts as usual, like how I sometimes feel Metallica’s biggest/only sell out was making Death Magnetic more like what the fans wanted. Right now, I think it makes sense for them to pander to their old fans and get paid, rather than make something tasteful and get shit on.


    • What’s the point of being artistic and broke ?
      What’s the point of breaking even but being unfulfilled ?

      What’s better ? I keep changing my mind.


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