Kings of Schlock
(25th March 2001)

David Bowie has regenerated more times than Dr. Who and, like the good Doctor, recent rejuvenations have been rather less successful than earlier incarnations. While both ancient Timelords also like to surround themselves with (relatively) nubile young flesh, it's a credit to Bowie's bloody-mindedness that, when he decides to get new blood in, his vampiric tendencies recruit not adoring Bowie impersonators but a crecheful of whichever young pups he's name-checking at the time.

Run DMC are attempting something similar on their new album Crown Royal. The Kings from Queens seem set on reinventing themselves for a new generation by rounding up a huge gang of the kids' favourites in a mixture of Bowie's Youngster Technique and a terminal extension of hip hop's current malaise - the album collaboration.

Since the commercial landslide that was the Raising Hell album which spawned an Aerosmith-resurrecting Walk This Way in 1986, Run DMC have been on a hiding-to-nothing. They haven't done themselves any favours though; their sampling of Ray Parker Jr for the Ghostbusters 2 theme was so ham-fisted that even Puff Daddy would have been embarrassed by it. Probably. Tougher Than Leather, the film and album both, sucked the gorilla's erection and then licked its arsehole clean for good measure and the crock of shite they chopped out of Fool's Gold was nothing short of breathtaking.

Jason Nevins threw three drowning men a lifeline when he slung a 4-4 under a track from their debut album. It's Like That was a massive hit and Run DMC were back in business, on tour and making money. Nevins was rewarded with public ridicule, a Cypress Hill remix and his bus fare back to wherever the fuck he came from.

Crown Royal is the first new material since Nevins' selfless rescue and follows current hip hop convention by assembling a posse large enough, and probably with enough illegally held weaponry, to ride out after the Magnificent Seven, the Dirty Dozen, The Good, The Bad and, indeed, The Ugly. In keeping with Bowie's prescription, all collaborators are half the age of the band but - and this is a BIG but - they are very much not dispassionate outsiders brought in to inject some perspective.

Even Back From Hell, the largely pointless previous "comeback" album, stuck largely to contemporaries who'd tell the band where to stick it (KRS-1, EPMD, ATCQ) but this shower are almost entirely nu-metal come-latelies, kids not worthy to unlace the Adidas of the likes of Run DMC, who were probably in short trousers when the band were Kings of Rock and who can't see that this project is only off the ground because the record company scents a cash-in.

The first track is It's Over. Prescient some might say, but you don't have to be Doris Stokes to realise that a record which not only samples a whole load of back-catalogue but recycles lyrics left, right and centre and has only one track from 12 that doesn't "feature" somebody is not going to be a giant leap forward.

Special guests like Kid Rock, Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit, Sugar Ray, Third Eye Blind and Everlast are sycophantic hero-worshippers who would submit themselves to any abasement for the chance to karaoke a few verses of their heroes' finest moments. And they proceed to do just that. Fred Durst's effort is particularly lamentable and goes by the name of Them Girls. It is something the Fat Boys might have tossed off in a spare moment: "I like the small girls/ I like the tall girls/ I like all the girls." Not exactly the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.

Only Method Man maintains any dignity in these proceedings and he's relegated to Simmons Incorporated in which Run brags about how much cash money he and brother Russell (of Def Jam fame) have made over the years ("I'm here to rename rap/ It ain't rap no more, I call it Simmons Incorporated.") But, while his track kicks an excellent electronic groove, even Method Man can't resist slipping in a couple of facsimile lines from the old school. Worse still, he's only the aperitif to the "hidden" atrocity that is a Nevins-style reworking of Walk This Way. It's a pastiche worthy of the end of the Two Ronnies Christmas Special - not an album by Run DMC.

Once, Run DMC used to slay Sucker MCs, these days they just bus them in to appear on the album. Run DMC are parodies of themselves and it's apparent that the only rock they know about these days is the one some distance from a hard place. It's hard to see how they're going to get off it.

[This article originally appeared at Bleedmusic.com]


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