Trivia note: "Rockin' the Suburbs" (the title track of the album) is apparently a satirical jab at the career and person of Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, ostensibly from the perspective of Durst himself.

The song is a musical departure for Ben Folds, a pure pop-rock confection with actual GUITAR tracks. But lyrically and conceptually, Rockin' the Suburbs is classic Folds. And by saying that, I mean, it is bloody hilarious and timely.

As with "Underground" on the Ben Folds Five debut album, the song is a tongue-in-cheek run-time commentary on a prevailing musical movement of the day. Whereas "Underground"(1995) skewered the traits of the suddenly-huge alternative music audience -- the self-pitying silliness of loser-chic, the ironic conformity of rebels -- "Rockin' the Suburbs" particularizes this mentality in the person of Durst, shifting the camera from audience to artist in doing so.

Not surprisingly, Folds sees little difference between the producers and consumers of angry, non-conformist, self-pitying rock music. The delusions remain the same, only the clothing has changed.

This time around, Folds addresses not only the sociological but also the socioeconomical. He depicts Durst as being another artist growing rich mostly off the coin of suburban, middle-class white kids, the next in a long succession that included Michael Jackson, Quiet Riot, and Bon Jovi before him. Folds makes a comic distinction between Durst and his forbears, however, with Durst saying of himself, "I'm rocking the suburbs just like Quiet Riot did... except that they were talented". His enrichment regardless of a talent deficit is explained later in the chorus, "I take the checks and face the facts, that some producer with computers fixes all my sh*tty tracks."

If I had a criticism of the lyrics, it would be that Folds could've replaced Michael Jackson and Bon Jovi with other provocateurs from the past, and thereby shown the direct evolutionary line of "Music for Surburban Youth to Rebel By" that spans generations, certainly included Quiet Riot and is, as of 8/16/01, personified in Durst. This would have been structural perfection. The song is superlative, regardless.

One could argue that there are quantitative differences between the genres of today's rap-core, early 90's alternative music, mid-80's heavy metal, 70's punk, etc. But do you think that the executives at the record labels, or those at Mtv, who have grown fat and happy selling rebellion for decades see any difference? With enough altitude, it all looks the same. A mass of emotionally-scarred conformists, whipped into a frenzy by an emotionally scarred artist. Songs about beating the system, the beautiful people, rage against the machine... A flurry of money changing hands, most of it being siphoned off quietly by the invisible machine that controls the means-of-production and channels-of-distribution of commodified dissent.