No matter what I write about during this post, your mind will immediately associate the trio House Of Pain with their biggest hit record, "Jump Around". And I think rappers Everlast and Danny Boy and their deejay, DJ Lethal, will be okay with that. It's hard enough to conjure up a song that people will like, but to come up with one that people fucking love? Damn near impossible.
House Of Pain formed in the early 1990s, after Everlast (Eric Schrody) put his solo career on hold (his debut album, Forever Everlasting, was released in 1990) in favor of teaming up with a friend from high school, Daniel O'Connor, and a deejay he had previously worked with, Leor Dimant, and adopting the personas of Boston-based Irish hooligans just looking for a good time. They were affiliated with Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs and his Soul Assassins collective; unsurprisingly, Everlast and crew received assistance from their new friends during the recording of their debut album for Tommy Boy Records, House Of Pain. (It is also often referred to as Fine Malt Lyrics, but since my iTunes went with House Of Pain as the title, that's what I'm going to run with for the rest of this write-up.)
House Of Pain was mega-successful, thanks to the aforementioned "Jump Around", which connected with MTV's audience in an unprecedented manner: soon afterward, the boys found themselves touring not just with rap acts, but also rock and metal bands, sharing their drunken messages with the masses. DJs Lethal and Muggs pretty much handled all of the production (although Ralph Tha Funky Mexican shouldn't be forgotten, as he had a hand in a few of the songs), rendering House Of Pain a natural extension of the Cypress Hill mythos, which, looking back at the project nineteen years after its release, was probably the intention all along.
After recording a couple more projects, House Of Pain disbanded, with all of its members spinning off into new endeavors. Everlast, of course, simply went back to his solo career, which also proved highly successful: DJ Lethal was part of the original formation of Limp Bizkit, move he probably doesn't regret, since they made a shit-ton of money at one time. Danny Boy was more of a renaissance man, working in multiple fields, including film and graphic design, before deciding to start the hip hop supergroup La Coka Nostra, which he convinced both Everlast and Lethal to join. Now there's talk of a full-blown House Of Pain reunion, because that's always where these kind of things naturally end up.
Before all that stuff happened, though, there was this.
Well, at least they didn't call the rap album intro “Intro”.
2. JUMP AROUND
House Of Pain wastes no time getting to its first single and its biggest hit, “Jump Around”. Producer DJ Muggs tames his experimental Cypress Hill side in favor of a catchy-as-fuck party anthem, and Everlast provides three verses that I'm fairly sure that all of you two have long since memorized. House Of Pain have truly recorded a timeless piece of music here: whenever it comes on the radio today, I can't help but turn the volume louder, and I'm sure the same goes for you as well, even after it was used at one point to sell fucking Pringles. “Jump Around” will forever be the go-to song for unimaginative deejays working St. Patrick's Day-themed parties, and I'm actually okay with that. DJ Muggs deserves every single fucking one of those royalty checks that he receives whenever this song plays: his beat is pretty much the shit.
3. PUT YOUR HEAD OUT (FEAT. B-REAL)
“Jump Around” segues into what sounds like a leftover from Cypress Hill's debut album, with Everlast playing the B-Real role and B-Real himself opting to go the Sen Dog route. And the shit still kills today: although the Muggs beat is deceptively simple and the hook leaves a lot to be desired (both in complexity and in actual literal sense, as the phrase “put your head out” means very little today, unless I'm forgetting something), Eric steps into the leadership position with ease, handling his two verses as though he had been born to manhandle Muggs beats, and B-Real actually plays the sidekick-slash-hypeman character pretty well. A nice underrated gem that is always overshadowed by the preceding track.
4. TOP O' THE MORNING TO YA
The lyrics over this DJ Lethal concoction are all over the place in the best possible way: considering just how quickly and randomly Everlast jumps between topics, I wouldn't be surprised if his bars were originally a freestyle that has been formatted to fit your television. Lethal's dusty drums and guitar samples make for a powerfully potent combination, and as an added bonus, four songs into House Of Pain we finally get to hear Danny Boy rhyme and he sounds...just like Everlast. Ah, no matter, this shit was still very fucking enjoyable.
5. COMMERCIAL 1
6. HOUSE AND THE RISING SON (FEAT. SON DOOBIE)
Everlast's collaboration with the other DJ Muggs group at the time, Funkdoobiest (or, more accurately, Funkdoobiest member Son Doobie), comes in at a weird place on House Of Pain: they couldn't have waited a bit longer to insert that interlude? Anyway, DJ Lethal lends our host and his guest a subdued, funky loop, one which Eric dominates with his aggressive manner and flow, although Son Doobie (is he still a porn star? I've lost track of the guy) is no slouch, either. Brings a much lower level of energy to the table after the tremendous beatdown the first three songs provided, but that isn't a bad thing, as I'm sure everyone could use a breather at this point.
7. SHAMROCKS AND SHENANIGANS
Continues with the more subdued nature that “House and the Rising Son” introduced to the mix. Over a plodding Lethal instrumental, Everlast and Danny Boy kick some shit that sounds as though even they were bored with it, losing more and more interest with each passing bar. For some reason Tommy Boy Records selected this as a single, even going so far as to secure a cameo by comedian Denis Leary (because that's all he was at the time: he wasn't yet the Emmy-nominated Rescue Me co-creator) for the video. But why exert that much effort on such a sub-par track?
8. HOUSE OF PAIN ANTHEM
House Of Pain rights itself with a quick two-verse effort over a DJ Lethal instrumental that sounds like something lifted directly from one of Cypress Hill's interludes, as it gives off the same funky, marijuana-laced vibe, just in a Boston transplant-kind of manner. You may recognize this track from the introduction to the official video for "Jump Around". Everlast and Danny Boy sound fucking terrific on here, mouthing off with the confidence of seasoned veterans.
9. DANNY BOY, DANNY BOY
Goofy as shit, but in a good way. For some reason Everlast believed that he had to be featured on every single track, even those ostensibly set up as star vehicles for a certain sidekick, so when he kicks off this song, it fucks with audience expectations. Danny Boy does manage to sneak in more than a few bars, to his credit, but Eric buries his boy, pisses on his grave, and, in the most hilarious twist of the evening, starts singing the actual song “Danny Boy” over a switched-up instrumental made up exclusively of a chopped-up vocal sample. As an actual song, this doesn't work all that well, but for sheer entertainment value, Everlast knows his shit.
10. GUESS WHO'S BACK
Everlast proclaims that “the white man is back” on “Guess Who's Back”, but even though I know he's just referring to his own return to the rap game, you can't help but give that line a curious look, considering the fact that he utters it on a rap song. I'm about thirty-five percent certain that he didn't mean it in any questionable way: the guy has black friends! Come on! I'm just saying. Anyway, Muggerund's haunted carnival loop sounds simple enough on here, but the listener will still be left hoping for more variety. Eric's three verses are alright, but this track will wear you down, and that is not a compliment.
11. COMMERCIAL 2
I understand that these commercial breaks were only included on the compact disc release of House Of Pain. What the hell did we ever do to deserve that?
12. PUT ON YOUR SHIT KICKERS
This is House Of Pain's Onyx song. Don't believe me? Bend your ear to how fucking goddamn catchy the shouted chorus is and tell me I'm wrong. It's just too bad that the rest of the track doesn't live up to that level of hype, as Everlast and Danny Boy both sound annoyed that they're still recording their debut album as a group. Which may be a valid observation: was there really a good reason why House Of Pain had to be so overlong? Anyway, “Put On Your Shit Kickers” features the final appearance from Danny Boy, so you should get your goodbyes in now.
13. COME AND GET SOME OF THIS
This sounds like one of those songs from the Hill's Black Sunday that you skip past because you don't quite feel like falling asleep right now. Everlast does what he can with the never-changing loop (provided by Muggs and Ralph Tha Funky Mexican), but the lack of diversity in the beat has the adverse effect of showing the audience, now without anything else to distract them, that Eric's bars on here are mighty empty. Long gone is the hard-partying Boston street thug present earlier on the project: the Everlast featured on “Come and Get Some Of This” reeks of a pathetic old man resigned to his fate. Moving on...
14. LIFE GOES ON
Well, at least this doesn't hit the three-minute mark.
15. ONE FOR THE ROAD
This was just silly. My version of “One For The Road” is fucking censored, which renders much of the first verse nonsensical, but none of that matters when the chorus consists of the phrases “Mickey Mouse” and “You know he's in the house!” For those of you just now joining hip hop, no, I'm not fucking kidding. (No, he isn't talking about the famous Disney character, although if he was, that would give this a layer of subtext that the project as a whole is sorely lacking.) Sp this shit is damn near impossible to actually listen to. Which is too bad, as the beat is actually a step in the right direction. Can't win them all, I guess.
16. FEEL IT
This late game-changer helps the listener remember why they're still listening to House Of Pain, as it features two (censored for me, sadly, but not heavily) Everlast verses that sound like, once again, a repurposed freestyle session, but I'm not complaining this time around. Ralph's simple beat actually works in this song's favor, as its unobtrusive nature helps Eric and his goofy threats present themselves loud and clear. Added bonus: Everlast actually retroactively explains what “Put Your Head Out” actually means, and now that song makes perfect fucking sense. My memory sucks sometimes.
17. ALL MY LOVE
Tricks you into thinking that it will be a song, but “All My Love” quickly morphs into an outro filled with Everlast's shout-outs to his friends and family (and, interestingly enough, Balthazar Getty). As I thought this sounded awful when Eric was actually rhyming, I was thankful and relieved when he dropped the pretense and just started talking, as he came off as much more sincere that way. Why, if my copy of House Of Pain were actually over right now, this would have been a very nice ending.
Alas, it's not over yet. House Of Pain was later reissued with the following bonus track tacked on for no good reason.
18. JUMP AROUND (PETE ROCK REMIX)
I probably won't ever write the following sentence ever again, so enjoy it while you can: Pete Rock gets trounced royally by DJ Muggs. The original “Jump Around” is so fucking perfect that it would be unreasonable to commission a remix from anybody, let alone one of hip hop's most valued and trusted historical figures (although Tommy Boy did get to put Pete Rock's name on the back cover, which is probably all they wanted to do anyway). It doesn't help that Peter brings nothing to the table, aside from a horn-heavy beat that sounds like something the original version of the song would play softly in the background when it was trying to clean up after its party guests trashed its house, and a lackluster guest verse shoehorned in apropos to nothing. (There's a version of this remix that leaves off Pete Rock's verse for a very valid reason.) There was no need for this song to ever exist.
Further reissues of House Of Pain also elected to tack the following second bonus track.
19. SHAMROCKS & SHENANIGANS (BOOM SHALOCK LOCK BOOM) (BUTCH VIG REMIX)
Wow. In no way does this horrible rap/rock hybrid hold up in 2011. I get the reasoning behind it: expanding your fanbase is a good way to potentially boost record sales, and producer Butch Vig, best known for his work with Garbage and the seriously-how-could-I-have-not-listed-them-first band Nirvana, is as good a choice as any. But this song is motherfucking awful. Everlast and Danny Boy's lyrics, lifted straight from the source material, clash painfully with the music, and as a listener first and a critic second, I was left wanting to kick this song in the balls. This was bad.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Had it not been for the massive popularity of their biggest hit record, House Of Pain would be best known as Boston's answer to Cypress Hill, with its two rappers (one seemingly holding their position only part-time) and their deejay spazzing out over funky, drum-heavy beats that you could almost smell the weed smoke emanating from. And in that respect, House Of Pain is pretty successful, although there is a noticeable dip in quality during the second half. Thanks to “Jump Around”, though, these guys don't ever really have to work again, so the fact that House Of Pain recorded a decent debut album may be forever lost on the masses, especially those who traffic in lists of one-hit wonders without doing any proper research. (Apparently I'm just really upset at the jackasses at VH1 right now, and I don't know how to direct my anger. Cocksuckers.) DJs Muggs and Lethal (for the most part) bring the noise, connecting more often than not, and Everlast provides rhymes that are actually impressive, if not complex. House Of Pain has aged surprisingly well.
BUY OR BURN? The lackluster second half notwithstanding, this album is still good enough to warrant your hard-earned cash. Besides, if you're one of those people who absolutely cannot stand “Jump Around”, then I don't want to know you. (It's okay for you to hate the Pete Rock remix, though: man, does that shit suck.)
BEST TRACKS: “Jump Around”; “Put Your Head Out”; “House Of Pain Anthem”; “Feel It”; “Top O' The Morning To Ya”