Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Send in the clowns
One of the most affecting things I’ve read about music in the last year is this Guardian piece about the Insane Clown Posse (ICP), an underground rap group who dress like clowns. Essentially, after spitting out incredibly misogynist and violent lyrics for some twenty years, ICP announced (through song no less) that they were, in fact, evangelical Christians. Up until this point, their audience (nicknamed juggalos) was mainly disaffected, poor white kids in America who rallied around ICP’s gritty images scenes of sodomy and death as a cathartic outlet for their misdirected rage. The article goes some way to voice ICP’s surprise that not everyone was on board with their devotional revelation. Ummmm, really?
At first read, it’s hard not to collapse into fits of laughter about some of idiocy peddled here. But on second or third reading, I started to feel differently about this article. I think that’s because the two members of ICP (Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J) seem genuinely surprised that after decades of singing about ‘fucking ho’s and then killing them,’ people would react negatively to them when they start singing about rainbows. Ahh Miracles (above). This song has become infamous because of it’s dumb as shit wonderment at nature’s majesty. The most pertinent line which became an instant internet meme in itself is the magnificently thought out “Fucking magnets, how do they work?” Fiercely anti-science and anti-intellectual, this song became a flash point of anti-ICP sentiment.
This is the bit that affects me. I think everyone (on some level) wants to be understood especially if you’re coming from a place of genuine emotion or intent. Their bewilderment, often inarticulate and angry, shows two people trying to comprehend what should be obvious but has escaped them. I know it’s not the first time we’ve seen rock stars out of touch with reality but there is something so discernibly naïve about their response (especially given the nature of ICP’s music) that I can’t help but feel for them. It’s like being privy to someone just realising that they’re the butt of the joke everyone’s been laughing about for the past hour. Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age as I have no time for clowns or dogmatic religion but their perplexed outrage is oddly moving and sad.
Changes in style (JUDAS!) and message (JESUS!) have been met with rancour before. The last thing you need to hear is David Bowie announcing he’s going to make a ska record about Jesus. But I think ICP’s revelation is too much, too soon for the world. It’s not like they suddenly made a trip hop album or something - they just revealed that the music they had been peddling to their fans was, in fact, rather than real life tales of clown gangsterism a way to sucker the juggalos into following the Lord. That their fans would rally against them (as well as anyone who is, well, rational like scientists) shouldn’t be a surprise. But the surprise is that it is a surprise - to ICP at least. And that is telling, not only of the band but the world they have created around them. The ICP world is as far from reality as anything Miracles or organised religion has to proffer.
As such, I guess my final thoughts are with the dedicated juggalo who just saw the ghost of Johnny Rotten say, “Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? Good night!” as he throws his microphone down and leaves the stage. I imagine just because your heroes are stupid misogynists dressed as clowns doesn’t make it any less disappointing. Being a fan sucks sometimes.