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Kid Rock: History Of Rock


Kid Rock

Album: History Of Rock
Label: Atlantic

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You'd never know it from his recent Best New Artist Grammy nomination, but Kid Rock has been around for more than a decade, peddling his blend of Southern-rock aggression and mack-daddy posturing to critics and audiences who were ambivalent at best and hostile at worst. That all changed with 1998's Devil Without A Cause, a testosterone-heavy blast of redneck rap-metal that captured the pop-culture zeitgeist and made rock-star indulgences such as History Of Rock and protege/collaborator Uncle Kracker's major-label debut possible. Combining rarities, two new songs, and a number of pre-Rebel songs newly remixed or re-recorded, History Of Rock is a sort of greatest-hits package from an alternate universe in which albums such as The Polyfuze Method and Early Morning Stoned Pimp were wildly successful. The first single, "American Bad Ass," boils the Kid Rock philosophy down to a single swaggering anthem, a victory lap built around a sample of Metallica's "Sad But True" and a long list of shout-outs to Kid Rock's forefathers, from The Beastie Boys to Johnny Cash. The title track from Early Morning Stoned Pimp is the album's other apex, an irresistible bit of slow-rolling funk featuring a hilariously belligerent, mush-mouthed verse from Joe C and greasy, laid-back production that owes a debt to the work of onetime Rock producer Too $hort. Nothing else matches the sublime stupidity of those two songs, but the rest of History Of Rock is infused with the inimitable swagger and over-the-top attitude that makes Devil a guilty pleasure. The collection only gets truly dire when Rock takes himself seriously, as on the excruciating "Abortion" and "My Oedipus Complex," songs that illustrate why the tormented soul of Kid Rock is an area best left unexplored. Uncle Kracker has long been Rock's guitarist and DJ, and Rock returns the favor by producing and playing guitar on Kracker's solo debut. Double Wide is predictably rooted in an aggressive mixture of country, metal, rock, and hip-hop, but his affability and lovable-hillbilly shtick pale in comparison to Rock's larger-than-life charisma. Worse, Kracker has the bland, almost apologetic delivery of an artist doomed to forever play the role of the hapless sidekick, and Rock's polished production merely emphasizes how moronic Kracker's lyrics are. "I stay pretty stuck in a rut like I should / And do it in the name of everything that's still good," Kracker sings on "Yeah Yeah Yeah," the album's first single and catchiest song, and such regrettable lyrics are the rule rather than the exception. Double Wide is even more hook-laden than Devil Without A Cause, but even its catchiest songs—such as "Heaven," an ode to Detroit that wouldn't sound out of place on a mainstream country station—are undone by remedial lyrics and colorless delivery. Double Wide opens with a skit in which Kid Rock anoints Uncle Kracker as the next chapter in the Kid Rock saga, but if the ensuing album is any indication, he's far likelier to end up a footnote in his more gifted mentor's ongoing story.