I remember the first time I heard of Kid Rock and how much I hated his guts. It was the year 2000 and I saw the video for his tune “American Bad Ass” from his fifth album The History Of Rock from the same year. Looking like a big douche, (that’s what I thought, yes) he was rapping and shouting over a sample of Metallica’s “Sad But True” and I couldn’t have hated that song more. Kid Rock’s that is, not Metallica’s. One thing that has always got on my tits about hip-hop is the artists inability to actually play their own instruments and instead they just sample stuff they like and then rap over it. That’s not creative, that’s theft. As a rocker, that’s one thing I can always use during arguments: “Well, rockers do play their own instruments and they usually do it well”. To me, Kid Rock was just one of those hip-hop artists without any musical talent, just talking over sampled music that was written, arranged and played by real musicians. I never gave Kid Rock the time of day after that. Another thing that bugged me with Kid Rock was that I was never friends with the whole nu-metal environment, the metal mixed with hip-hop is a match made in the loo as far as I’m concerned. Rage Against The Machine started that anomaly once upon the 90’s and I have never liked them. Kid Rock wasn’t that far behind so I blamed him as well. Bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park ruled around the late 90’s and it was all Kid Rock’s and RATM’s fault. Kid Rock released three more albums after that, that was more hip-hop than rock. But one day back in 2007 I got a text message from a friend that said: “You need to check out Kid Rock’s new album!”. Was the guy insane? Kid Rock? Why on earth would I want to check out his album for? Well, it turned out, my friend said, that Kid Rock had dropped almost all hip-hop and made a classic rock album. I couldn’t believe it – I had heard “All Summer Long” on the radio, on which he had sampled Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” (I never liked that band nor the song either) and even though he actually sang on it, the sampling annoyed me. Anyway, my curiosity got the better of me and I checked out the album in question, Rock N Roll Jesus. To my surprise, my friend was right, this was a classic rock album and better yet – it was a great album. I even started to dig “All Summer Long”. The follow-up album was called Born Free (2010) and was a southern rock album with lots and lots of country influences. Once again, Kid Rock had taken me by surprise and the album too was brilliant. His last album Rebel Soul (2012) took him back to the rougher classic rock, but unfortunately the album wasn’t as strong as the previous two. Not bad by any means, quite the contrary, but it had quite a bit to live up to. That didn’t lower the expectations for the new album, but it might not have increased them either. But for me who has turned from a hater to a fan, I have looked forward to every Kid Rock release since Rock N Roll Jesus.
The album opens with the title track and it knocks me out right on the spot. It has a clear southern rock vibe, but it is really a pop rocker, almost AOR-ish in places. The song is direct, catchy and has every possibility in the world to become a hit. I do hear Aerosmith in it too. “Good Times, Cheap Wine” is a real killer, a fat rocker that could have been an outtake from the Rock N Roll Jesus sessions. This kicks ass, for sure! Next song up is called “Johnny Cash” and of course, with a title like that, you kinda expect it to sound like Johnny Cash. Well, it doesn’t. It sure has a Cash influence and there are some prominent southern influences, but the song is more a down to earth rocker. And speaking of rock, here’s “Not Enough Whiskey” which sounds like AC/DC goes southern rock, if you can imagine that. This is brutal stuff and it makes me hope for a Kid Rock tour around my shores soon. “Drinking Beer With Dad” has a title that is self explanatory, because that’s what the song is about – your first beer with dad. The song is based around an acoustic guitar groove that goes country-pop-rock. Awesome! “Good Time Lookin’ For Me” will make you happy. It’s a happy song, see. A good time, swing blues rock tune that makes you want to get up and shake whatever it is you wanna shake, with a big smile on your face. Unless you’re a miserable person. If you don’t get moved by “Best Of Me”, you might wanna get an empathy check. It’s a slow ballad, both heartfelt and emotional and I get the feeling that mr Rock means every word he’s singing here. The band speed things up just a notch with “One More Song” and add both soul, pop and rock and a refrain so addictive a heroin addiction is a walk in the park by comparison. “Jesus And Bocephus” is a double-edged sword for me. The song itself, a country smelling ballad, is really good, but the lyrics seems to be about him finding religion and as a non-believer, I find it hard to relate. The album also has two different “bonus tracks” as the closer, depending on which version you prefer. There’s one for the explicit version called “F.O.A.D.” (Fuck Off And Die) (not a very Christian tune, I might add…). Explanation unnecessary! It’s a slow blues / country stomper and very groovy for a slow song. A great song indeed. For the clean version, you get a slow ballad called “Say Goodbye”, very pink and fluffy and AOR-ish, tearful as can be, about the sadness of breaking up from a relationship. It’s also a good track, but I have no problem deciding which track I prefer. But with only 10 tracks, I don’t understand why he didn’t put both on the album.
This is Kid Rock’s fourth effort where all the hip hop, rap and other anomalies are gone, the fourth album where classic rock is the main influence and where his love for southern rock are all over the album. Rock, country, blues, soul, hard rock – everything has its place here and it’s very clear that Kid Rock really loves the music he makes now. Fact is, Kid Rock is damn great at doing it as well. He’s no Pavarotti by any means, but he sure can hold a tune and he sings with attitude and conviction. There is a big love for Aerosmith as well, that needs to be pointed out and not just on this album, but on all his classic rock albums. Aerosmith, ZZ Top and AC/DC with a good dose of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Cash and Steve Earle. If you’re still not convinced that this former hip-hop / metal dude can play “real” rock and roll, it’s time to open your mind and give him a break. If you’re into classic rock and southern rock and still hasn’t given the kid the time of day, you’re missing out, big time. This is a damn good record, his best since Rock N Roll Jesus and this one, together with his other three rock albums, should belong in every rocker’s record collection.
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)
1. First Kiss
2. Good Times, Cheap Wine
3. Johnny Cash
4. Ain’t Enough Whiskey
5. Drinking Beer With Dad
6. Good Time Lookin’ For Me
7. Best Of Me
8. One More Song
9. Jesus And Bocephus
10. FOAD (Fuck Off And Die) (explicit bonus track)
10. Say Goodbye (clean bonus track)