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Korn in the USA

Appropriating a fish-in-a-barrel stance with Korn would be the easiest, surest form of cheap laughs, for sure, and one, as Courtney Love recently said, that would be fun to do as well.

Frankly, Korn is shit in warm-up suits and piercings. An overblown product of record company mechanics mixing with the unrestrained luck of five mostly thick-waisted white dudes from Bakersfield via Huntington Beach, California, who make a noise as unremarkable as typing paper.

Korn is the whitest, malest, most asexual music since Oi, and, like Oi, it should have been left to die some unnatural death. The songs -- or rather, dirges with the patented Jonathan Davis "angry" warble weaving through -- don't have enough staying power to be remembered seconds after completion, dirges which at best merely annoy.

And it is filthily objectionable for someone like Korn singer Davis to have grown rich and respected for preaching a hollow mantra of "We're bringing back rock 'n' roll" under the guise of Korn's tuneless, banal thud. The real cause of Korn's rise is a simple timing snafu in which the bored suburban kid brothers of ex-CrYe and Judas Priest fans had nothing to latch on to other than a bloating Metallica or some record company throat-ram like Hootie and the Blowfish. Korn fit the bill. And it didn't matter what the group's music sounded like as long as it resonated with a pissy, angry clang. Even if it wasn't really pissy and angry.

Korn's self-titled debut in 1994 and the identical sounding 1996 follow-up, Life Is Peachy, both went platinum. The band's latest, Follow the Leader, entered the Billboard charts at No. 1 last September and has since crested the million mark. Currently Korn is touring American arenas with erstwhile adversary Rob Zombie. They'll stop in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday, March 9.

Since Korn wouldn't give us an interview, we decided to Follow the Leader nearly song-by-song with Davis (as per the band's bio) while tossing in our own two cents. Cool?

"It's On!" -- Davis: "This is my peer pressure song. It's about me, being so stressed out, going out, partying and everybody's just going 'Come on dude, it's on.' That's partying: it's about the alcohol, women and everything else... all that wrapped into one."

OK, first, Davis has gotta be talkin' about Grand Funk's "We're an American Band" ("C'mon dudes, let's get it on") because lines from "It's On!" like "Save some for me/It's what I like/I wanna play/You know it's time" just ain't swingin' with Davis' anecdote. And second, never, ever pay any attention to anyone who uses the word "party" in verb form. And just what does he mean by "and everything else"? Too many cigars? Hot dogs? Lollipops? What?

And if there is a melody here, captain, it's too obscure for our sonar to locate.

"Freak on a Leash" -- Davis: "That's my song that rails out against the music industry. It's about how I feel like I'm a fuckin' prostitute. Like I'm this freak paraded around, but I got corporate America fuckin' making all the money while it's taking a part of me. It's like they stole something from me -- they stole my innocence and I'm not calm anymore."

Prostitute, eh? Sounds like a pity party to me, kids: "Life's gotta always be messing with me (you wanna see the light?)/Can't it chill and let me be free (so do I)/Can't I take away all this pain (you wanna see the light)?"

Poor baby. Did the big, mean old record industry steal away his wee-wee innocence? Awwwwwww. Yeah, our hearts pump dishwater.

"Got the Life" -- Davis: "I'm baggin' on myself in that song. It's about how everything's always handed to me, how I look up to God and say I don't want this anymore. Like I want something more out of life than all of this. And I've got everything I really need, but sometimes I don't like it and I don't know how to explain it."

Davis really doesn't know how to explain it, does he? 'Cause the lyrics are just strings of non sequiturs over yet another insufferable din: "Hate something, sometime, some way/Something kicked onto the floor/Mine? Something kicked onto the floor."

Boy, that says it all. And, jeez, for a big, tough, rock 'n' roll star, the whimper factor is a tad high, wouldn't ya say?

At least in describing the song's "meaning," Jonathan freely comes clean about how everything is handed to him.

"Dead Bodies Everywhere" -- Davis: "That was the song about my parents trying to keep me out of the music business.... I worked at the coroner's office instead of being a musician, and all I got out of it was 'Dead Bodies Everywhere,' and I got all traumatized. Thanks a lot mom and dad."

Yeah, thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Davis.
Little Jonny traumatized? Perhaps this explains his partiality toward long tangents of the whine variety: "Hate!/I sing my words I've thought that dealing/With your life's dead bodies everywhere/You/Really want me to be a good son/Why'd you make me feel like no one."

Oh, please. Jonathan's habit of blaming others for his own setbacks is getting mighty redundant....

"Children of the Korn" -- Davis: "[Ice] Cube came up with title. I fed off of what he wrote -- he was talkin' about growing up during puberty, and having people dictate to him what he can do, like 'how you gonna tell me how to live and who to fuck.' And in one of my verses, I'm talking about being a kid that's always known as the fuckin' town faggot. It's funny how things change... because I'm a big rock star now."

Token rap cred in the form of Ice Cube only reinforces the soft whiteness of Korn's strictly hetero pose and suburban underbelly. And the real imagery on this song comes from Cube's antiestablishment rote, thus dwarfing Davis' usual feeble-handed wordplay even further.

But with a band with such "meaty," cock-in-hand musical ethos and a staunch, pro-porn stance (porn director Matt Zane threw Davis' bachelor party, and Davis showed up in Zane's Backstage Sluts 2) one would normally scratch one's head at all the homophobic-cum-homosexual referencing: "It was all about the pussy, if you can get it/A little nerd like me never fucking liked it." And then there's this:

"B.B.K." -- Davis: "That stands for 'Big Black Cock!'"
I'll say! Sample lyric: "There's nothing wrong wanting to be loved/Is there something wrong with me?!/Once in my life I'd like to be really set free."

Yee haw!
"Pretty" -- Davis: "It's a story about this little girl that came into the coroner's office when I was working and she [had been raped and killed] by her dad. She was an 11-month-old little baby girl.... It was heavy man. I went through all kinds of therapy."

Isn't Sir Davis all empathetic here, as if the screaming and yelling and "crooning" in the dirge is some sort of catharsis: "So so right/Wait but I don't realize/Smile my legs/Broke the pain between her thighs."

Really, coupled with the dirge, Davis' comments are more let's-spermicize-the-arena posturing than anything else; the sympathy routine is pure button-pushing, unintentional irony.

"All in the Family" -- Davis: "Fred [Durst of Limp Bizkit] was at the studio one day after a KORN-TV taping, and we said, 'Let's do a song together. Hey, man, let's go back and forth and rip on each other like an old-school battle.... I even came up with some bags on myself for Fred to say."

Further gay references ensue in the form of a decidedly seventh-grade locker-room gibing, and one gets the feeling it takes on more than just a good-natured bent. And dig the way Jonathan bags on Florida:

Fred to Davis: "And all you eat is Zingers/You're like a Fruity Pebble/Your favorite flag is Rebel/It's just too bad that you're a fag."

Davis to Fred: "So you're from Jacksonville/Kickin' it like Buffalo Bill/Gettin' butt-fucked by your Uncle Chuck/... You love it down south and boy, you sure do got a purty mouth."

"Reclaim My Place" -- Davis: "I always do a song about a band member, and this one is about the whole band and how all my life I've been called a homosexual. Even now, I became this big rock star in a band and I'm still called a fag even by my own band. So it's like I was fuckin' pissed off at them.... I've never ever gotten away from that 'fag' fuckin' title. Just because I'm a sensitive kinda guy, and kinda feminine. It really sucks."

Can anyone say "overcompensation"? Poor Jonny, to be saddled with so much "sensitivity" and all. Jeez, does he mean that, with all this sexual-issue stuff, he ain't just pulling our chains? Who knows? The "What the fuck?" chant at the tail end of the song is all open-ended.

"My Gift to You" -- Davis: "Renee [Davis' wife] wanted me to write her a love song, and that's why I called it 'My Gift to You.' It's my gift to her, and you know how I get sick. I always had a fantasy of fucking her and choking her to death.... One time I was thinking about it while making love and taking her away from this fucking place. I just had the balls to write about it."

The balls to write about it? Where has he been? This sort of psychotica has been placed in literature for hundreds of years, from Shakespeare to Rimbaud to Judith Rossner. If anything, this is the sort of illiterature written by a guy with a seeming history of torturing cats behind his tract house in some dire suburb while drinking stolen beers and shooting off .22 rounds. Nothing more than an updated Axl Rose distemper, only less exciting.


Korn and Rob Zombie will perform at the National Car Rental Center, 1 Panther Pkwy., Sunrise, on Tuesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $28.75. Call 954-835-8000.

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Brian Smith
Contact: Brian Smith

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