When I was just a young Juggalo, there was one expression beyond all others I truly could not stand. “Life’s not fair,” would be my father’s familiar refrain whenever I fell into complaining about some perceived slight or rejection. When I grew older however, I understood the wisdom behind it. There’s no use complaining about things beyond our control—better to focus on the things you could change.
Sometimes life was unfair—would that make you bitter and hateful, or would adversity help you grow stronger?
The same questions are the driving force behind ‘Fearless Fred Fury’ (FFF), the new album from the Insane Clown Posse, and the Fourth Joker’s Card of the Second Deck. FFF is a being of toxic anger, punishing souls who fail to live with dignity—those who put off all responsibility for their life, and feed on blame and resentment.
Fred’s job is to avenge the bitter dead—doling out punishment to the recently deceased who have wasted their lives with impotent complaining to the chagrin of the dead who had no more opportunities to waste. The message behind this Joker’s Card is ‘Fite Back’—but how to do that is a concept explored throughout the card and its companion EP, ‘Flip the Rat’—which we’ll review next week.
Fred’s targets are those who blame fate, whine about poor luck and unfair circumstances, and take no control over their own lives. The dead are angry, and Fred is ready to punish such people. Flip meanwhile, feeds off the fear instilled by Fred. Together, they encourage the living to fight back against whatever is holding them back and find their true power and passion.
Anger is a funny thing however, and with the Wicked Clowns established approach of showing the good by shining a light on the bad, we are left with a strange dichotomy between wasting your life in sorry resentment, and the equally dangerous path of falling into toxic anger and destructive rage.
This balance is defined clearly in the intro song for the character, ‘Red Fred’, which describes Fred’s anger towards those who never took control of their own lives, and the destructive power of fury.
… YES! Fred’s the revenge you never got…
NO! Fred’s all your dignity shot…
YES! Fred’s all the drive you didn’t know…
NO! Fred will burn these into your soul…
The album has an unusually personal aspect to it, as its long production time was marred by delays, and fuelled by the toxic anger of Violent J as he dealt with the loss of album mates and betrayals he struggled to process. There is a sense that the album started off as a pure revenge piece—focussed on violence and hatred, but morphed into something more nuanced and deep as J himself slowly processed his anger and put it in its proper place.
While songs like ‘Fury’ and ‘West Vernor Ave.’ tell stories of violent revenge and fury turned into violence, others stand on somewhat higher ground. ‘Satellite’, for instance, starts off with the quote,
“Your life sucks, is that what you said man?
Try and tell that to a dead man.”
The song is an important reminder of the better things in life, and the beauty of simply being alive. It encourages us to putt off bitterness and revenge, trading those for an appreciation of life and a determination to make the most of our opportunities.
The song creates a fascinating contrast with a song from Flip the Rat, ‘Hawking’, but we’ll talk more about that in next week’s review.
This sentiment repeats in songs like ‘Freedom’, which reminds us that we are free to live any way we want—that the world is truly ours.
These are exceptions however, and the majority of FFF is spent on toxicity and the impacts thereof. ‘Game Over’, ‘Low’, and ‘Hot Head’ tell the stories of people lost to the world due to their own resentment and fear, while ‘Nobody’s Fault’ drives this theme home by describing the horrendous impacts of such withdrawal from society, while reminding us of the source of this suffering: ‘it’s nobody’s fault but mine’.
‘Night of Red Rum’ provides a murder-fuelled horror story that may settle among some of ICP’s best of that particular topic, while ‘Shimmer’ is a ghost-story that may claim the same.
The penultimate song on the album, ‘Beware’ is a warning—a disclaimer of sorts about the disturbing content of the final song. It challenges the listener to make a choice whether to proceed or not. It’s a bit of a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ approach, and sets up a fascinating ending to the album.
Not unlike the choice between the 6th Joker’s Cards of the first deck, ‘The Wraith’, which encouraged us to choose between ‘Shangri-la’, which was for the special few, and ‘Hell’s Pit’, which was for the many.
FFF closes with ‘I Like it Rough’, a depraved exploration of sexual violence and control—the noxious ending of a life defined by bitterness, rage, and resentment for society coupled with a lack of personal agency and responsibility.
It’s a dismal ending, focussed on mutual pain and suffering, with no hope at all offered within. This is an interesting and novel approach by ICP—as the vast majority of their albums end on a positive note encouraging us to appreciate what we have, love those deserving, and move beyond that which hurts us.
Nothing of the sort here—suffering and pain are the only offerings of the closing track, which is a fitting cap on an album driven primarily by themes of toxic anger and isolation. The right choice—perhaps, would be to obey the warning, and stop the album at ‘Freedom’—a more classically fitting end-point.
Of course, then we’d miss out on this powerful statement on toxicity—which the album did so much to establish.
Ultimately, the album makes it clear that life truly isn’t fair. There are moments when we’ll feel betrayed, forgotten, or unappreciated, and most likely, they’ll happen again and again.
It also tells us that it is only ourselves who can dictate our reactions to these setbacks—and reminds the listener to avoid falling into isolation and resentment, all while displaying the dangers of toxic anger and violence.
It’s a more layered theme than many of their efforts, and pays off with a strong sense of style and consistency. Ultimately, ‘Fearless Fred Fury’ is a terrific addition to the Dark Carnival saga, and Juggalos around the world are slathering over this new era of energy, empowerment, and a return to the classic ‘wicked shit’ of old.
-Brad OH Inc.