October 15, 2008

Limp Bizkit: The Soundtrack to Our Lives

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I’ve always had — and always will have — a special spot in my heart for Limp Bizkit. Please, allow me to explain myself.
I would venture to say I have a pretty broad musical palette. Though some would challenge my claims of good taste — Sun Senior Editor Sammy Perlmutter ’10 discovered six months ago that I like Gym Class Heroes, and he still won’t talk to me — I feel comfortable suggesting I have a fairly respectable collection of songs on my iPod. Genres like indie and hip-hop appear in spades, along with some more accessible examples of electronic and experimental brands of music. Whether you have a hankering for Dem Franchize Boys or Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, I can probably find a song that you would be at least decently satisfied with.
And I do have my pretensions: While I’ll run all over campus telling people how much I love the new TV on the Radio album (“It’s mad legit, yo!”), I have long since disavowed the dredge put out by suburban angst-rock groups like Nickleback, Staind, Linkin Park, et al. And yet, I love Limp Bizkit.
Yeah, a defense of L.B. might seem patently ridiculous, and it is. But it’s exactly that — the absurdity of the notion that Fred Durst and his crew merit any sort of positive recognition — that almost makes it OK for me to admit that, “You know what guys? I kinda like Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog-Flavored Water.”
Sure, it wouldn’t be classified as “good,” “respectable” or “even remotely listenable” by most conventional standards, but I always keep coming back for more.
I’m writing this column while sitting shotgun in an Explorer on Route 81, headed back up to Ithaca on Tuesday afternoon. A little bit earlier during the trip, my roommate, Ian Jones ’10, was perusing my iPod for some killer tunes and decided to shake things up by breaking out a little bit of Bizkit. All three of us in the car — myself, Ian and Myles Rowland ’11, ginger extraordinaire — sang along as we rotated through the majority of the band’s big hits. I’m not embarrassed to say that we knew all the words.
And this is not and isolated incident. Nor is it limited just to Limp Bizkit. On any given long-distance drive, there’s nothing I enjoy more than listening to the stuff I listened to in the eighth grade. It was during that pivotal year that I went through a brief, and utterly regrettable, faux-punk phase — I bought a skateboard and pretended I knew how to use it; I purchased the entirety of my wardrobe from PacSun; I listened to a disconcerting number of musical artists in the Limp Bizkit ilk.
I’ve changed a lot since I was 14, but some things remain constant. And, no matter how much I try to move past the peculiar musical preferences of my eighth grade self, I can’t seem to stop listening to Fred Durst and his badass posse.
More to the point, I don’t think anyone ever really outgrows the stuff they listened to during those impressionable adolescent years.
Think about it. How many people, over a decade later, still know all the words to “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind? Everybody loves that song. Seriously. I would challenge you to find a single person between the ages of 18 and 24 who dislikes “Semi-Charmed Life,” and you wouldn’t be able to.
I would argue that the universal appreciation enjoyed by these artists, who were popular amongst our generation while we grew up, has less to do with quality and more to do with the fact that we listened to them so consistently during that particular point in our lives.
On a drive to Ithaca last summer — similar to the one I am currently in the midst of — my co-pilot, Sydney Arkin ’10, recounted her own unfortunate faux-punk phase (I’m not gonna say she had pink hair, since she’d get mad at me for mentioning it in a Daily Sun column … but when she was younger she totally had pink hair), and we listened to Alien Ant Farm, Semisonic and Sum 41. Again, we knew all the words.
Nostalgia obviously plays into all of this. We keep listening to the music we loved way back when as a reminder of years past. But, on a more communal level, I tend to think we keep listening to that stuff — and talking about it with our friends (who might or might not have once had pink hair) — because it was a shared experience, and we can all relate to it.
Years down the road, when oldies stations play Third Eye Blind, it’ll be the be just as nostalgic for us as Motown is for our parents. So, it’s OK to like Limp Bizkit, because they represent something important about our adolescence.
And besides, singing along with Fred Durst is probably still less embarrassing than admitting that I really like “I Kissed a Girl.”