Limp Bizkit - Significant Other (retro review) (Cover Artwork)

Limp Bizkit

Significant Other (retro review) (1999)

Flip / Interscope

You forget how weird some of these songs are. Not “deconstructed trance” weird, but “sounding like funky Stone Temple Pilots” weird (that’s “Nobody Like You,” which does, for those keeping score at home, feature vocals from Scott Weiland), or “let’s just stick a rap song produced by freaking DJ Premier on this thing” weird (that’s “N 2 Gether Now,” which mostly holds up as a vehicle for check-cashing Method Man) . That a good stretch of Significant Other captures the sound of a band whose primary inspiration is the Red Hot Chili Peppers is somewhat lost to time and narrative.

Because the book on Significant Other 20 years later isn’t that it was an attempt to bring some violent muscularity to psychedelic rock, or that it was a punk rock version of metal in its adherence to a “no solos” philosophy. The legacy is Woodstock 99. The legacy is breaking someone’s fucking face tonight. The legacy is doing it all for the nookie and shoving baked goods up asses. What we remember, we cynical and sneering punk rockers, safely positioned in the future, is the jocky knuckle headedness that marked the last moment of rock as a domination cultural force in pop music.

And, look: There’s a reason to remember that shit. A great deal of the content and perspective on this record was toxic and shitty for its time, and it’s aged like Arizona yogurt. Even on a song like “No Sex,” which is ostensibly about a relationship deteriorating until the only thing holding together is the physical, comes off like something scrawled on a stall in sharpie.

A great deal of the records lyrics, read as text, portray a person dealing with a not insignificant amount of insecurity and betrayal. It’s focused on, as the man says on “Trust?”, liars, back-stabbers and low-lifers who are “mentally molesting” our narrator, trying to rid him of his money with their hands out (“Broke”) or break his romantic heart.

It’s not that there aren’t interesting ideas and attempts at depth to be unearthed. “Re-Arranged” stands out a moment of grace; it’s bass line remains an earworm, its scratching breaks remain charmingly out of place, singer Fred Durst’s instinct to dial-back his rap-scream remains wise, the layering of the vocal melody in the song’s closing moments remains inspired. 20 years later, it holds up. “Show Me What You Got,” too, charms, it being little more than a nervy guitar riff and a roll call of all the various second-tier cities of America that have supported the band up to this point, it’s crowning moment. It’s stupid, but it’s also sweet.

But you’d have to go looking for those moments and doing so means grappling with a brute pigheaded force that is nigh impossible to overlook and aggressively of its time. It’s not hard to hear what a generation of disaffected young men responded to, listening to it now. Significant Other is a record for those whole feet downtrodden and want to turn that pain into a fist that smashes any face it sees, without pity or consideration, a weapon against someone else.