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Defining masculinity these days is difficult. If you read Susan Faludi's man-child manifesto, Stiffed, watch one episode of Comedy Central's The Man Show, or even skim through boobs-and-booze mags like Maxim and Gear, you get the idea that it's every man's God-given right to be a complete horn dog, a beer-swigging, babe-ogling, fart-lighting jerkoff who mentally never left the frat house. Pop music isn't helping things. Nearly every male performer indulges his cartoonish masculinity: Kid Rock with his fur-collared, white trash, pimp-playa attitude; Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst with his wigger posing and ex-girlfriend revenge tactics; Eminem with his oedipal complexes.
The Bloodhound Gang is a quintet of lads that also seems content in its frat-boy state of mind. The band's latest album, Hooray For Boobies, truly defines what can be described only as "jerk-off rock." Mixing and matching crunchy guitar riffs with Euro-style techno-pop with club-hopping techno with white-boy hip-hop, the Gang goes beyond Beckian cut-and-paste to create an extremely nutty party gumbo. The boys are pop-cultural idiot savants, regurgitating in their lyrics everything that transfixed them as horny 14-year-olds. The band nods to '80s new-wave relics Falco and Frankie Goes to Hollywood on "Mope" and even finds a way to toss in the theme from the Pac-Man video game.
The Gang's tunes are good for a laugh, but that's all they're good for. (Sample lyric: "Early bird gets the worm/Spread your legs and spread the word/So what if I'm not the smartest peanut in the turd.") They put their tongues in their cheeks so damn much they can't really say anything that's not in smart-ass-ese. Do you honestly think there's some artistic or comedic vision behind tunes such as "I Hope You Die," "Yummy Down on This" or the soon-to-be-fraternity-house-classic "A Lap Dance Is So Much Better (When the Stripper Is Crying)"? Much like Craig Kilborn and his Late Late Show, a nightly exercise in narcissistic irony, the boys of the Bloodhound Gang practically drown themselves in testosterone-heavy sarcasm. The Gang has to learn there is more to entertainment than just being a bunch of smirking Craig Still-borns.
As the Gang and their ilk dig themselves into a snide, snarky oblivion, Henry Rollins reminds us that it's good to have real men around -- even if no one understands why. Rollins has always been a curio on the alt scene: He is grunge's gentle giant, the kind of guy who could get a club crowd rowdy enough to riot, then stick around afterward to help clean up. Most of the young folk can't figure out how one man can be anarchic yet morally and socially responsible. But ol' Hank has always found a way to pull it off, and he does again on his new album, Get Some Go Again.
For Rollins there's only one type of song arrangement: loud and boisterous. With backing by the Los Angeles band Mother Superior, Rollins slips into his hard-driving, rock-and-blues mode quite easily.
True, Get Some Go Again might not have the rebellious gusto of his earlier solo work or even his underrated DreamWorks debut, 1997's Come In and Burn, but hey, the man's heading toward middle age. The time for being young and angry for no reason is over. Instead Rollins now finds plenty of reasons to be rightfully pissed off, ripping on the vapid and the clueless ("Change It Up"), plastic surgery ("Thinking Cap"), and even pop stars who, in Rollins' words, are just talentless poseurs ("L.A. Money Train"). Sure, Rollins might have the wisdom that comes with being, well, old, but he has never let go of his anger.
It's rather comforting to know that an old warrior like Rollins is still around. We like the fact that he's here to lay the smack down on young snot-nose punks like the Bloodhound Gang. It recalls a brilliant moment on Beavis and Butt-head when Butt-head, upon watching a lame girl-group video, utters, "One girl from L7 could kick all their asses." If Rollins ever met up with the Gang for an impromptu alley rumble, guess who'd come out standing?
The Rollins Band is scheduled to perform Saturday, May 20, at the Chili Pepper, 3399 Virginia St., Miami. Call 305-442-2228 for information.