Archive for Wes Borland

Gig review: Limp Bizkit, Brixton Academy, London, 29/05/2012

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on June 18, 2012 by innothingwetrust

For some reason, stating publicly that you love Limp Bizkit is a bit like coming out in the olden days. Upon doing so, you face insulting jokes, mockery and musical ostracization. Suddenly your opinion no longer matters on anything to do with music – it’s like signing a pop culture death warrant. Thankfully these days openly gay people are generally embraced by their peers, but when you say you like Limp Bizkit you are actively sought out for ridicule by the superior, the holier-than-thou and the aloof, such is the band’s maligned status outside of their own fanbase. Well I’ll delightedly take the flak because experiencing the sheer energy and power that Limp Bizkit unleashed inside Brixton Academy on the 29th May is something you will never get with The Smiths, The Doors, Doves, Stone Roses or The Cure. You can stick Morrissey where you can stick that cookie.

It seems to me somewhat ironic that Limp Bizkit’s detractors often point the finger at Fred Durst as the key reason that their music is a joke. Ironic because these detractors generally purport to like, in massive inverted commas, “Good Music” (whilst rarely straying from what the general consensus of this is), suggesting that they are people who carefully consider and appreciate the composition and musical devices used by their favourite musicians. Yet in lambasting what is obviously a clown fronting the band, you fail to see past the superficial to realise Limp Bizkit’s substantial talent.

Consider just how tight a drummer John Otto is. His bass drum and snare relationship is absolutely spot on. I honestly don’t know any other drummer who can nail a beat as well as John Otto, certainly for this kind of pop-metal genre. Sam Rivers’s bass lines are intricate and hard-hitting in all the right places and he replicates these flawlessly live whilst jumping all over the place. In fact, he and Wes Borland have such good stage presence that they make the most enormous of stages look tiny.

And Wes Borland. Long considered, even by the nay-sayers, to be the only member of Limp Bizkit to have any credibility, he is beyond any doubt the most important member of the band. His style and tone are unmistakable and his performance captivating, but where his real talent lies is in the dual hit of firstly being able to make something very simple sound complex and multi-layered, and secondly in having an incredible ear for a hook which allows him to write some of the catchiest riffs in all of rock music. Musical purists tend to look down upon simplicity, another thing which perhaps makes Limp Bizkit a figure of fun. These people are idiots. It is far, far harder and takes much more talent to write a simple, memorable pop song than it does to shred endlessly on blues scales or knob around with time signatures. Anyone can stand in awe of a guitarist’s technical proficiency, but without the ability to inject that infectious feeling you get when you hear a piece of music that you just love, they are merely a session musician. So fine if you like technically grade-8 music, but ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ will always be better than any of Dragonforce or Dillinger Escape Plan’s songs.

But I digress, albeit happily… There was a gig to be seen.

I’ll make short work of the two support acts: I missed ‘The James Cleaver Quartet’ and so can’t comment and ‘Yashin’ were absolutely terrible. Whoever booked these as support is hopefully now redundant. Cheesy riffs, annoying dual-screamo vocals, lame synchronized head-banging and endless bloody noodling. For about 10 seconds, there was a lovely pounding, rhythmic riff with some double bass, but I think this only stood out as the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. The sung vocals and harmonies were good, and when I say that I only mean that they were in tune. I still didn’t like them.

So, formalities done and techies on stage taping down setlists, plugging in cables and spouting incomprehensible prattle into the mics, I made my way down to the front – stage left, obviously (Wes Borland’s side). After a slightly long hiatus, the lights were killed and an electronic intro fired up (notably from a session DJ and not from DJ Lethal who has been kicked out of the band, in his words, for ‘partying too hard’ – almost certainly too many drugs for Durst’s short patience although the band have not yet addressed the issue publicly. Suffice to say no-one really noticed, or cared). The band members limbered up one by one – the seemingly possessed Sam Rivers followed by a very portly John Otto followed by the God-like Wes Borland, this time clad in white top, white face-paint, white wig, white mask featuring rows of LEDs and black leather crotchless trousers with his ass painted red (pictured). The man knows how to dress. Finally, Fred Durst appeared on the scene wearing what can only be described as a hip-hop version of a Slipknot jumpsuit (also pictured) and gave the cue to Otto to begin the opening of ‘My Generation’ which sent the crowd into teenage hysterics. ‘Why Try’ – one of the only half-decent songs on latest record ‘Gold Cobra’ – followed in similar fashion and by the time ‘Hot Dog’ had completed an utterly bone-crushing opening trio, every single person in the room was soaked head to toe in their own sweat.

It’s a rare thing to look back over a crowd and see literally every member of the audience going absolutely ape-shit for every single song, but such was the energy inside Brixton Academy. Limp Bizkit benefit from most of their songs having a BPM of between 95 and 105, which translates as ‘a perfect tempo to jump up and down to’. It is a glorious sight to see and is exactly the sort of energy that makes anyone want to be in a big band.

There was very little let-up in the set with ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ the only real opportunity for the crowd – now generally a bunch of 20-somethings who grew up wearing massive jeans and chains, and who perhaps still do – to take a breather. There was also a perfect blend of old and new – only 3 songs, and thankfully the slightly better ones, from the new record were aired and the unpredictable inclusion of older tunes ‘Re-arranged’, ‘Counterfeit’ and ‘Pollution’ were a really welcome addition for the more dedicated fans. I would have loved to have heard ‘Eat You Alive’ and perhaps ‘Shotgun’ from Gold Cobra would have been better than the incredibly messy and bizarre ‘Bring it Back’, but within reason I couldn’t have asked for much more (save for Jonathan Davies and Scott Weiland coming on to perform ‘Nobody Like You’, but that’s a cream dream which will never come true).

The set drew to a close with about 50 fans (mostly female) taking to the stage and dancing around to hit single ‘Rollin’. It’s not one of their best songs, but it seemed a fitting way to finish the proceedings. If you like to dance, but not in the totally lame, pouting, posing, pretend-you-are-Beyonce, photos-on-Facebook way, then Limp Bizkit are the band for you. Go and see them and let your hair down.

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Album Review: If Not Now, When? – Incubus (2011)

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2012 by innothingwetrust

Incubus have lost their Drive

Those of you who know me will know that I loved Incubus in my teenage years. They were the one band who defined me as a person, as a music lover and as a musician. I spent my youth trying to sing like Brandon Boyd and play energetic and catchy riffs like Mike Einziger and I would doodle in my school books in the style of the band’s self-made artwork. This was largely down to the fact that at the time, Incubus were touring on the back of three absolutely fantastic rock records in S.C.I.E.N.C.E, Make Yourself and Morning View. Sure, there were Fungus Amongus and Enjoy Incubus before that, but no one who smokes less than 20 joints a day really takes them seriously.

With the bigger picture of hindsight, however, I liken Incubus’s journey to a boat sailing through adverse conditions. With those first two albums, Incubus appear to have started out in darkness before emerging into the sunlight for the golden trio of output at their peak. A Crow Left of the Murder in 2004 signalled the return of clouds and with 2006’s Light Grenades it was raining again, fans out on the decks with buckets pouring the flood water overboard and repeating the line “We’re not going to sink,”. I would describe the climate surrounding their latest effort (a word I use with extreme cynicism) as a veritable shit-storm of hail and thunder, but this record is just so dull that it is more like a regression to the ice age. Oh how the great have fallen.

The album opens up with the title track which is what I describe as an ‘Intro Song’. It’s the sort of song which is full-length and has words, verses and choruses, but doesn’t really feel like a proper song as much as it does a set-up for the real opening track. They would start sets with it, using it as a ‘lights up’ kind of introduction and stirring up the crowd with its promising steady and consistent pulse (see also: ‘Take a Bow’ from Muse’s ‘Black Holes and Revelations’, or the title track from Foo Fighters’ ‘In Your Honour’). We also get a good idea early on of the stylistic direction the album has taken – after the first few bars of drums, one would be forgiven for mistaking this for a lesser-known Genesis or Chris de Burgh number. And that is in no way a compliment.

So, disappointed but hopeful, I dived into track 2 ‘Promises, Promises’ with zeal only to have the balloon of optimism not so much burst in my face, but slowly let down to make a high-pitched and annoying farting sound. It threatens something nice with interesting piano chords, but that is knocked on the head with an absolutely horrible pre-chorus and almost worse chorus. I could hear Chris Martin in my head saying “No, this is all wrong” and you can’t help but think that Coldplay – even after their own lame duck of a latest record – could have done this song much, much better and left the cheese on their toast rather than smearing it in your face.

I had hoped for an early statement of intent with this album and I got it. I had just not banked on the intention being to make a dreary album full of emotionless drivel. Boyd asks, “Baby, could I be the rabbit in your hat? I’d swing if you’d hand me the bat”. Sigh. Gone are the days of clever, scathing and brilliantly accessible lyrical analogies (“Hearing your voice is like chewing tin foil”, “You saw the apple hanging on the tree, but missed the orchard in your gaze”, “I’d bite my tongue every time you come around, ’cause blood in my mouth beats blood on the ground”).

Gone, too, it seems are the days of any form of rock influence or aesthetic. Gone even is the guitar! I don’t know if Mike Einziger has just run out of guitar parts to write (well, parts that aren’t pretentious, ambling jazzy solos which seek only to show off the fact that he can play the guitar and the piano at the same time during live shows), but he jumps on the keyboard at every given opportunity. This is all prevalent in the opening segment of the album as we wind through the boring ‘Friends and Lovers’, the circular ‘Thieves’ and ‘Isadore’ which, the second after I had finished listening to it, had entirely escaped my vaguest recollection.

Track 6, ‘The Original’ opens with some tension and after toying with the idea of a build-up, resolves into a sombre, Massive Attack style verse. That’s ok, it could have been something good, but again, hopes are dashed by a rank major scale chorus and the rest of the song is like being smacked in the face with sunshine, rainbows and flowers made of sugar. This song does, however, mark the first change of pace whatsoever on the album. Poor Jose Pasillas, once one of the best drummers of his genre, is shackled 99% of the time to plodding along with the same uninteresting beat supporting the same uninteresting songs. But for about 30 seconds he is allowed into second gear. It is sadly a gear he is never allowed to exceed. How suicidally bored he must have been wading through this in the studio.

What is clear by this point in proceedings is that the intricacy and dynamism that Incubus were once famed for has now been completely replaced by trite and self-indulgent atmospherics. Songwriting has taken a backseat to production, structure to the laziness of jamming, musicianship to showmanship. Substance to style.

Acoustic track 7 ‘Defiance’ is markedly better than all that has come before it, but that’s partly because the ‘acoustic’ song on a ‘rock’ album doesn’t have to be dynamic because it’s the ‘different’ track. The truth is that it’s just as lazy as the rest of this album, only slightly catchier, probably by chance. It is still only good enough to be a B-Side on a Light Grenades single.

The opening of ‘In the Company of Wolves’ sounds like Robbie Williams and although the middle section displays a refreshing moodiness totally lacking from the rest of the album, the ending is the ‘Sick, Sad Little World’ moment of this record insofar as it is quite obviously just a vehicle for live musical wankery and improvisation.

One of the most astonishing moments is ‘Switchblade’. Is that Brandon Boyd… rapping? Is this his attempt at a cover of Limp Bizkit’s ‘Shotgun’? If it is, it’s a shame that Mike Einziger is not Wes Borland. And actually, if that was their intention, that every member of Incubus isn’t every member of Limp Bizkit. A strange, strange song.

It is indicative of how poor this album is that when leading single ‘Adolescents’ comes on, you think, ‘Ah here we go, this is more like it’. Before hearing the rest of ‘If Not Now, When?’, I had heard only ‘Adolescents’ and thought it was woeful. But when you have just sat through 9 dismal attempts at pop music, this song is a veritable return to form. The verse melody is actually quite good and the chorus isn’t bad either, but moreover, the song is dynamic like the Incubus of old and the song has a mix of structure and invention – unexpected key changes, interesting drumming, light and shade. This is a trend not picked up however for closing track ‘Tomorrow’s Food’, a low-key folk outro which is so bland you might well question whether your CD player has accidentally skipped onto Radio 3.

Finally, I have not mentioned bassist Ben Kenney or DJ Chris Kilmore once yet. That is because the former does absolutely nothing of note on this record and the latter does absolutely nothing at all, at least not as a DJ. Judging from the below video, it seems he has become the band’s keyboardist.

If ‘Light Grenades’ made ‘A Crow Left of the Murder’ look good, ‘If Not Now, When?’ makes it look like the bloody White Album. Believe me, I don’t like saying these things about a band I once idolised, but truth is truth. Perhaps I am harsh and premature to judge so scathingly an album I have had such limited exposure to, but the simple truth is I don’t want to listen to this album again. Perhaps that says it all.

RATING: (a generous) 2/10

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