Insane Clown Posse

It's best to compare Insane Clown Posse only to itself. To judge the outfit within the context of contemporary rap will lead to only one conclusion: It sucks. There's no rock connection here at all, except for maybe the same trailer-park mentality shared by fellow Detroit acts Eminem and Kid Rock. Heck, there's hardly even any music to speak of. What ICP excels at is telling jokes/stories and merchandising itself at a level that would make the original masters of greasepaint -- KISS -- very proud.

As part of those latter skills, ICP -- Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope -- has released two new CDs simultaneously, Bizaar and Bizzar. Apparently there's a unifying theme here somewhere, having to do with dark clouds and potential annihilation. To the degree that this is true, Bizaar should be heard first. But no matter which you initially listen to, the problem is that unlike 1997's The Great Milenko, which established an atmosphere over its length, these discs amount to little more than a bunch of individual performances tied together by various sound effects.

The other problem is that, with precious few exceptions, the "songs" aren't nearly as good as those on Milenko. Each of the three exceptions is found on Bizaar. Opening track "Take Me Away" not only is a catchy rallying cry for all the "juggalos" -- ICP's term for itself and its devotees -- but also states in fairly clear terms that what follows is fantasy, not something to be taken literally. The other high points are "Tilt-A-Whirl," which combines the only rock riff on hand with a clever description of a carnival machine that rends its riders apart and sprays them all over the neighborhood, and "Please Don't Hate Me," a 100 percent gratuitously graphic confession from one "friend" to another about the ways he's been "doing" his mother.

The rest generally amounts to obvious bathroom-wall explorations of the song title in question: "Fearless," about how badass the two are; "Still Stabbin'," about the joys of knifing folks; "Questions," about why the two aren't even more badass than they are; "If," about what they'd do if they were any number of things, from a thong to a muffler; and on and on and on.

There are a few chuckles here and there, and overall Bizzar probably sucks less than the other -- despite the highlights being on Bizaar -- thanks to its better pacing and slightly hookier contents. Either you'll laugh or you won't, but please don't take this seriously. If you do, the joke is most certainly on you.

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Chris Smith