The past few months have been a rollercoaster for the Juggalos—and that’s not meant to be a carnival joke. Back in October of 2020, during one of the Patreon streams they hosted to stay engaged during the pandemic, ICP announced that their next Joker’s Card, ‘Yum Yum Bedlam’, would be released on Christmas Day of that year.
There was much to be excited about. Not only is the release of a new Joker’s Card a momentous event for any Juggalo—as evident in our previous reviews, such as that for the most recent Joker’s Card, Fearless Fred Fury—this was to be the first female Joker’s Card, and wild speculations abounded.
The fifth card of the second deck, Yum Yum Bedlam (YYB) was said to be about loyalty. YYB represented temptation, and all the lurid things which drive us away from what really matters. It was a fascinating concept, fitting in well with the more individual morality-based themes of the second deck.
Loyalty has been a significant topic at Psychopathic Records as well, with the departure of several acts still looming large. Further, Violent J’s recent breakups hang over the album, promising a personal touch to the themes of betrayal, loss, and seduction.
As the first female Joker’s Card, the album also holds an important role for the Juggalette community. While ICP have been accused of misogyny over the years, their countless female fans would be quick to challenge those assumptions, rallying behind the inclusivity most often discussed in relation to the Juggalo family. With a female Joker’s Card, ICP would have a great opportunity to explore those themes and more.
Christmas came and went however, and while this writer certainly hopes that all the Juggalos and Juggalettes shared some wonderful memories and got some memorable gifts, Yum Yum was not among them.
On February 17th of 2021—colloquially known as Juggalo Day—ICP released Yum Yum’s Lure, a teaser EP for the perpetually delayed Yum Yum Bedlam.
As the year wore on, news came at the Gathering of the Juggalos that Violent J was suffering heart problems, and ICP would soon have to step back from their regular schedule. The details of that announcement are covered here.
Finally, it was announced that YYB would make its long-awaited debut on Halloween night, 2021. This time, the Clowns didn’t disappoint.
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Yum Yum Bedlam arrived—almost a year late—and the Juggalo world was more than ready. As is my custom, I listened the first time in the dark, with a good pair of headphones and my expectations soaring.
The first thing that jumped out was the arrangement. YYB didn’t follow the Joker’s Card prototype of Intro song, Character song, then shit-talking song before moving into sex songs, ghost stories, and other Juggalo staples.
The Intro—a well-performed ambience and voice piece followed by eerie chanting to reinforce the character—was followed by a high-energy, classic sounding song, ‘Here Comes the Carnival’, which was deceptive in its sound. The happy vibes and bouncing rhythm did nothing to betray the dark undertones of the lyrics, which described people being maimed and killed at a violent, destructive carnival ground.
While the content itself is fairly typical fare around here, the discordance between the content and sound felt fitting given the themes of temptation, betrayal, and deception woven into the album. After a few spins of the album, this song strikes me as one of the most important on the record, which will be expanded on later.
‘Wretched’ is one of the more heinous tracks they’ve recorded in a while content-wise, while ‘Clown Drippin’ is a fun if content-light comedy song. On an album with a more traditional arrangement for the Clowns, this might have fit as a more typical third track shit-talk type song, but YYB is not a traditional sort of album.
‘Gangsta Codes’ is a classic ICP story song, with a message similar to some of their older material, such as the classic, ‘Murder Go Round’.
In ‘Queens’, ICP pull no punches in addressing directly and without the cover of heavy metaphor the thematic question many Juggalos assumed had to be addressed on this album. As the first female Joker’s Card, what did it have to say about relationships in general, especially given J’s recent struggles?
It proves to be a refreshing take, delivering on ICP’s astute moral insight and—to those less familiar—surprisingly progressive outlook. The song reminds the listener to cherish their loved ones, and those who help increase their shine, or risk the brutal pain of loss.
‘Panic Attack’ covers familiar ground for J, but does so with an energy that’s reminiscent of songs from two decades ago or more. While Shaggy arguably remains the standout on the second deck, J has shown up with a new fire. His choruses are better, his screams are louder, his lyrics are more creative and on-point. It reads like a good sign for the beleaguered Violent J, and perhaps if he doesn’t yet have his demon’s conquered, they may be well corralled.
A special mention must go out to Richard Cheese for his contribution to the outro of this song. His lounge-style crooning of ‘Fuck the World’ from the original fifth Joker’s Card is a hilarious touch.
‘Fuck Regret’ turns the tone of the album towards a forward-looking perspective, while ‘Insomnia’ takes a trippy journey through the titular struggle. Part way through the song, the beat changes and the song slips into a more psychedelic beat calling back to the classic song ‘Joke Ya Mind’. This mid-song tonal shift is employed several times throughout the album, and felt like a return to the longer, more committed approach to songs of old.
While ‘Heart and Soul’ continues with the more encouraging message that permeates the album, ‘The Drunk and the Addict’ is a surprisingly personal tune, with both J and Shaggy being comedically direct about their addictions—past and present. This impressive song continues the trend of being more honest about themselves in the second deck of Joker’s Cards, which treats J and Shaggy more as real people—as Joe and Joey—then as the cartoon characters they often portrayed in the original six.
We’re around two thirds through the album now, which is an interesting time for a Joker’s Card character song to turn up, but ‘Don’t Touch that Flower’ is exactly that. With a bouncy hook and catchy refrain throughout, is does a fine job of furthering the story of the Yum Yum Flower.
It occurs to me at this point that more than any other album, this has been reminding me of ‘The Wraith: Shangri-La’. The unusual arrangements, rich and varied sounds, bombastic energy, and enduring positivity brings a similar vibe to that essential Juggalo classic.
‘The Joksta’ brings us back to more humourous, light-hearted trash-talking, with a subtle approach to examining our inner nature that brings a darker subtext to the song. That’s contrasted perfectly by ‘Bitch I’m Fine’, which hilariously describes the endless maladies the aging duo claim to have suffered, then breezily brushing it off with a playful chorus boasting the track-title.
As the album approaches it’s long close—this happens to be the longest Joker’s Card by several minutes—the song ‘Carnival of Lights’ brings us to an unexpected high-point. With an inviting description of the inclusivity inherent to the Juggalo world, the song assures the listener that they have a perfect place within the embrace of the Carnival. With it’s equally catchy music, this song forms a beautiful counterpart to the similarly titled second song, ‘Here Comes the Carnival’. Both invite the listener to a Carnival with high-energy beats and pleading voices. Both have a positive sound and an invasive beat, but what each deliver couldn’t be more different. While the earlier song grants only pain and loss, ‘Carnival of Lights’ brings us love, inclusion, and unconditional support. This stark dichotomy is reminiscent of the side-opening tracks from YYB’s sister album, ‘The Amazing Jeckel Brothers’, which were positive and negative versions of the same song, titled ‘Jake Jeckel’ and ‘Jack Jeckel’ respectively.
It’s a timely and well-appreciated reminder that love is a two-sided coin, and while there’s a lot of pain and hurt in the world if we aren’t careful, there are also brilliant joys and experiences which can make all the rest worth it if we can only achieve them.
The penultimate ‘Ain’t No Time’ gives us a deep look into some of Violent J’s inner turmoil, and delivers in spades. It’s a touching, brutal song that reminds us of the journey the album has taken us on before ushering us into the finale, ‘Something to See’.
This song explores the idea of what a person might choose as their last vision before going blind, and reminds us of the countless treasures there are in the world if we can only shake off the temptations that blind us. The chorus concludes that the Juggalos, live at a show, would be the greatest sight to choose.
It’s a love letter to the family, and a fine closing to an impressive album.
The mastering on the final song seems a bit off, but the rest of the album sounds consistently fantastic, especially the notable return to basslines that have some kick to them.
I’d be remiss to not mention the ubiquitous producer tags throughout. It seems like a modern trend that can’t be avoided, and while they didn’t ruin my experience the way some listeners say they did, it can hardly be denied that tags on every song—and sometimes two on one song—feels like overkill.
In the end, ‘Yum Yum Bedlam’ is a fantastic release. ICP have really improved their chorus game on this album once again, and whether they’ve nailed the perfect balance themselves or just knew when to bring in assistance, there isn’t a single tacky chorus on the album.
YYB may be one of the most impressive albums the Clowns have released since 2009’s ‘Bang Pow Boom’, and sets up for the next sixth Joker’s Card perfectly.
That’s still good while away though, as the liner notes of YYB confirm earlier announcements that this will be the most heavily supported album yet. In addition to the preceding ‘Yum Yum’s Lure’ EP, three more EP’s will follow. The booklet announced the dates and names of each, and is shown below.
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‘Yum Yum Bedlam’ is still fresh, but in many ways it already feels like a classic. While years of repeat listens will be the only way to fully appreciate the depths of the album and reveal its final place in the story, its’ quality, intrigue, and plain old fun mean those listens will be an absolute treat.
-Brad OH Inc.