With some musicians, you just know — what to see is what you get. Nine records in, this is absolutely true of Kid Rock. Walking into his latest release, Rebel Soul as pretty much a Kid-Rock-virgin, I definitely had my preconceptions of what it would sound like. Having emerged on the other side, I can concretely say that they were absolutely spot on. What’s more, I wasn’t even surprised to find this was the case.
The record is the kind of typical Americana you’d have to expect from an ardent celebrity Republican. Kid Rock sings with a raw, raspy twang that, to be honest, isn’t all that unpleasant to listen to. His melodies are heavily guitar-driven and feature all the typical riffs and runs of the country-rock brand in which he operates. He treats topics like growing up, running free and rock music. His songs are called things like “God Save Rock N Roll”, “Cocaine and Gin” and “Redneck Paradise” and they sound exactly like you’d think they would.
In other words, for an album called Rebel Soul, it’s pretty predictable. There are surprises here and there — the semi-sweet, toned down “Happy New Year” for instance. But even this falls well within the parameters of the image Kid Rock has spent his entire career cultivating. You almost wish he wouldn’t make it about sex or getting shit-faced, just so it might be a little different for a change. Other attempts at depth, namely the politically charged tracks “Let’s Ride” and “3 CATT Boogie” fall flat simply because they are nested so tightly within the rebel soul persona — it’s pretty hard to take someone’s critique of Wall Street seriously when their main charge is that they stir up “sitchee-ations.”
Despite this, purely as a Kid Rock record, Rebel Soul works. Aside from the horrible, otherworldly misstep that is the autotuned “The Mirror,” it’s a solid offering of down and dirty American rabble-rousing. Expecting nothing more makes the listening process virtually painless, which is probably enough.