The Iceman Cometh?

The Iceman Melteth.

"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 ... ."

(nah)

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.