Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Kid Rock - Devil Without a Cause (1998)

I must admit it's been a while since I dug this one out. It's the whole hanging out with Donald deal which bothers me, although realistically the aforementioned hanging out with Donald is only the latest idiocy in a career founded on the same, and I doubt that anyone was surprised. Kid Rock's whole schtick is that he's a bit of an arsehole, and so Devil Without a Cause is largely about boozing and shagging until your liver explodes and your knob falls off, then doing it again whilst listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd turned up to eleven. I haven't looked too closely for fear of what I might find, but I expect he doesn't have much time for what I'm sure he terms political correctness, and I really, really wish he hadn't had such a hard-on for the Confederate flag; but then I like the music I like because it's music that I like rather than because every last opinion held by the artist synchronises perfectly with my own, and I'm probably going to hang onto those Kate Bush albums even though she's just outed herself as a massive fan of Theresa May. I draw the line at where the thought crimes of the artist are so overpowering as to infect my perception of the music.

MC Ren rapping about killing whitey doesn't bother me because it's obvious he was simply having a bad day, plus it's funny and you can see where he was coming from. I can still just about listen to Death in June with a peg over my nose, although they sound somewhat comical on this side of the millennium. I wish I'd never found out about Beck being a Scientologist. Skrewdriver, on the other hand, helpfully recorded music which was already shite thus saving the rest of us any need to debate whether it's possible to enjoy the stick 'em in a boat and send 'em back song without condoning the message, such as it is.

Maintaining a set of rules about what you will allow yourself to enjoy is a waste of time, so selections probably have to be made on a case to case basis extrapolated mostly from gut reaction; and I guess it must take a lot to stir my gut to righteous indignation.

The fact of my having felt the need to write those three paragraphs probably relates to why Kid Rock enjoys playing the arsehole, not to mention that he was never going to get to hang out with the cool kids or NME readers, regardless of his serious yet routinely overlooked credentials. So he's a white rapper, or was, but I guess we're all over that one by now. His flow belongs clearly to that sing-songy old school cornball style which is otherwise fine if we're digging out old Run DMC records or banging on about the tediously studied authenticity of Ugly Duckling; and while Kid's descent into autotuned stadium country has been appalling but probably inevitable, he's nevertheless paid dues and was once something of a whizz on the two record players - as we rap types call them; and Devil Without a Cause is unfortunately a fucking great album - not merely better than you expected, but one of those discs which glues itself into the player and stays there.

If he's an arsehole, he's the best arsehole he can possibly be on this record; and the music effortlessly weds pounding boom bap to Led Zep riffing and the kind of Skynyrd-isms which turn even the most urbane of us all misty eyed and countrified - not least on Black Chick, White Guy which just plain tears your heart out; and Welcome 2 the Party gets under your skin like nothing since the wholesale borrowing of Good Times by Chic. It's a populist album in the broadest sense, just like those early rap records before we got all uptight and snooty about it; and it's a populist album aimed squarely at people who maybe didn't make it to college, and who maybe don't have much going for them, and who probably won't respond too well when you sneer and suggest they might do better to listen to someone less sexist, J-Live for example. It's low rent, but there's a generous spirit here, and it's inclusive and probably doesn't really care if you voted for Hillary providing you're not going to be a dick about it.

While Kid Rock may be a dick who has been occasionally known to hang out with Ted Nugent, close inspection reveals him to be an otherwise decent guy in most senses that count, or at least some way from being your archetypal Republican shithead. Similarly this album almost certainly isn't what you may believe it to be, even if it does spend a lot of time belching in your face and then chuckling over how upset you are. It will probably be at least another hundred years before Devil achieves the sort of recognition it probably deserves, so don't whine about never having got the memo.

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