"Yo, yo, baby -- the Iceman here. I'm here to tell you dat the new
disc I'm droppin' is da bomb, baby, some fresh shit, and ... ."
In a year full of predictable, pedestrian releases, who could have
guessed that Vanilla Ice would return from obscurity to fashion this, as
powerful and passionate a slab of molten hip-hop-rock as has ever been
made. ... (uh-uh)
Nope, I just can't do it. Although it's almost my obligation as a "rock
critic" to in some way ridicule or satirize this new release by Vanilla
Ice, somehow, it just doesn't wash. I've already seen a couple of early
reviews of Hard To Swallow, both of them going for the easy kill,
and what could be easier (and safer) than slagging off the Iceman?
Admittedly, it's a great way to get that annual pan in: to show that,
yes, you really are a critic after all, and not just a glorified
corporate publicist, a shallow shill afraid to dish someone really
"important" for fear it might endanger your flow of freebies from Big
Brother. These are the same types who'd give Beck a rave if he made a CD
of his greatest farts, and who'll listen to that new R.E.M. release 100
times until they can find that hidden greatness that surely must
be lurking within. Oh yes, a brave lot are we brethren of the pen.
I mean, c'mon now. Most reviewers will be going for the standard line
about how "inauthentic" this album is, and to be sure, it's inauthentic
as hell, from the opening track, "Living," to the closer, "Freestyle."
But I'd be willing to wager a large wad of cash that if Hard To
Swallow, with its obvious, Ross Robinson-produced Korn/Rage Against
The Machine/Rollins Bandisms were repackaged and presented to the rock
literati as the efforts of some brand-new, ultra-cred band of hard men
from the streets, maaan, that it would get its share of rave reviews. "A
great new discovery from the school of hard knocks... ."
I mean, in 1998, it's ridiculous to talk about "authenticity" in rock
anyway. I'm reminded of Glenn Danzig's perceptive remarks about grunge
-- that wearing a flannel shirt and looking like a farmer wasn't
"authentic" at all, but in reality was just another costume.
Authenticity? Like that of Henry Rollins, who writes all these
angst-filled books about how he hates everyone and wants to kill himself
yesterday, but then appears in lousy Hollywood B-movies and schmoozes on
the TV talk-show circuit? Like that of Rage Against The Machine, who are
filled with fear and loathing for the evil, repressive, exploitative
corporate culture of the West, but nevertheless really don't mind
cashing their checks? Yeah, right.
Sure, the Iceman, as we all know, ripped off a bassline from Bowie and
Queen for his biggest hit and proceeded to sell over 13 million copies
of his debut disc, To The Extreme. But hell, Led Zeppelin swiped
entire songs from poor bluesmen like Willie Dixon, and who gave a
crap about that other than Dixon himself? And didn't I hear Puff Daddy
mumbling over a backing track that sounded a helluva lot like "Kashmir"
a short while back, with Jimmy Page's eager help? Round and round we go
in the exploitation show.
Anyway, none of this is to say that Hard To Swallow is a very
good album. It's a rather obvious, cliche-ridden and definitely doomed
attempt to establish the Ice-man as a "raging," angst-filled white boy
instead of a wannabe Stagolee -- albeit one with some moments of high
humor, be they intentional or otherwise.
Then again, your 10-year-old cousin might just think it's the best album
of the year.