For the past ten years or so, area rapper Kid Rock has been, in this order: a Beastie-inspired foul-mouthed delinquent, grunge-dabbling rocker, sometime bar-band sideman and finally a turntable-inspired songwriter. It's no small feat that there's a bit of each here on his rambling, impressive Atlantic debut, Devil Without A Cause. Detroit fans will notice several tracks, including the album's single, "I Am The Bullgod," are reworked songs from Kid's 1993 release Fire It Up and 1996's Early Morning Stoned Pimp. They seem to be here for the sake of both completism and to give these locally released tracks their national due. But while songs like "Bullgod," with its obvious nods to Monster Magnet and Alice In Chains, are powerful but dated, the newer tracks show the most depth of field.
The album opener, "Bawitdaba," is pure rock theater, a born show-opener, replete with mosh-happy sing-along chorus and crunchy Pantera riffs. "Cowboy," is Kid-Rock-The-Movie, goodtime tale-telling at its finest, and probably the only song ever recorded to feature both a slide guitar and vocoder. The old(er) school goodtime funk-rap of "Welcome to the Party," the wistful "Wasting Time" built on a sample from Fleetwood Mac's "Secondhand News" no less and the absolutely sincere lighters-in-the-air classic rock of "Only God Knows Why," all resist formulas.
Lyrically, Rock's all over the place, singing yes singing as much as he raps. Sometimes he's trafficking in dated goods: On "Where You At Rock," he's "got more rhymes than Seattle's got heroin." But he redeems himself on the title track: "going from St. Clair Shores and cheap drink specials to New York City and $700 dinners," he says, boasting he's "going platinum" and "making Matchbox 20 money." It's a lot of ground to cover, but between Rock's thought and expression, to quote Lou Reed, there lies a lifetime. By the time he gets to the peripherally lingering "Black Chick, White Guy," Devil's more than just funky, hard-assed, rocking and entertaining, it's real.