One of the things that is missing from the music experience is a certain level of commitment. To be sure, there are still people who are engaged and perhaps even obsessively loyal to performers. But there is a large number who most certainly are fans of particular performers but this is more about attentiveness than it is engagement.
This all goes to the primary means by which media is now consumed: a few taps on a screen and voila! When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod in 2001 he made what then seemed to be an unimaginable claim: the device, which was about the size of a pack of cigarettes (yes, in 2001 even people who didn’t imagine themselves to be ironic or gloomy smoked), would put “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Now it isn’t a matter of containing songs on a hard drive as 1,000x are available, as it were, through the digital ether.
To be sure, this situation is one that was created by technological determinism. Its give way to bits.
Whereas it once was a commitment to owning artifacts—as in physical objects that house recordings, be it polyvinyl chloride discs or magnetic tape—it is now essentially about rental of the content without the container.
And the container once had resonance in a way that seeing an image on a screen simply doesn’t. Album jackets, sleeves, labels, and even the vinyl itself (there were sometimes easter eggs found in the space between the last groove and the paper label). Musical artists collaborated with graphic artists: one thinks of Frank Kozik, who died a couple weeks back: he worked with bands including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Offspring, and more. There was an exponential increase in the experience, the physical art working to enhance or even explicate the audio art.
Directed by Tim Saccenti. From 72 Seasons, out April 14.
A new Metallica song isn’t something we’d typically share, but really I’m just using it as an excuse to make sure that you’ve read the terrific profile by Amanda Petrusich in the New Yorker. It’s really good.
Metallica was never my scene. The dudes in my high school who wore Metallica t-shirt were weird…in a scary way. And the punks I washed dishes with who appreciated them at the time were more edgy than I was comfortable with; there was a guy in the kitchen who had tweaked his boombox to play a little faster so the thrash would sound even more intense. Pretty sure that’s what got us banned from bringing our own music to work. From then on it was just the Top 40 radio that the cokehead cooks liked.
But my closest cousin was a metalhead and a guitar virtuoso. He had a band called Mastermind that covered “Whiplash” and even a femme like me had to admit it was cool. And then there was the roadtrip in college where some pals and I drove all the way to Arizona without stopping. I remember waking up from a short nap in the back seat as the sun was coming up over the desert. It was my turn to drive but I could barely keep my eyes open. Someone popped Kill ‘Em All into the tape deck and cranked it up and we made it to our destination without crashing.
And at Lollapalooza 2015 I hadn’t even intended on sticking around for the headliners, but — as I said then — you know how it is:
It’s Lollapalooza. You’re there. You’re grabbing some Anheuser-Busch “craft” beers next to Perry’s stage, checking out some Carnage, and it’s like, you don’t want to just go home… And you’re obviously not going to watch Sam fucking Smith… So yeah, let’s just check out a couple minutes of Metallica. And the next thing you know, you’re realizing what an uptight little dick you’ve been for the past 30 years and it becomes crystal clear that Metallica is a great fucking band! (Or a great “ducking” band, as your iPhone will autocorrect your text to your pal who has loved Metallica all along.) James Hetfield is an awesome frontman, totally charming and gracious but still sincere and 100% metal. I still might not consider myself a fan, but I’d definitely cross the street to see them again if I get the chance.
So yeah, I’m not a real fan, but I appreciate what they do. And this new song sounds pretty cool.
You’re forgiven if you don’t. They gave up on that idea by 1996 when they first booked Metallica as a headliner.
Remember when fests had their own identities? Bonnaroo was a rootsy jam band festival, etc. These days bands just rotate through the major summer music festivals, year by year. Cocahella last year, Bonnaroo this year, Lollapalooza next year. Repeat ad infinitum.
Just in Chicago if you attended Lolla, Pitchfork, and Riot Fest, you’d have the opportunity to see pretty much every band who’s currently touring. Sad you missed missed Run the Jewels and Courtney Barnett at Lolla last year? They both played P4k this year. Chances are they’ll both have a nice big font on the Riot Fest 2016 poster.
It’s quite a time to be a music fan. Then again you might ask yourself whether an outdoor music fest is the best way to experience live music. There are certainly a lot of hassles at these kinds of fests (comfort, sound, food, toilets, and on and on). But if you’re the type of person who likes to make a notch in your belt for every band you see, festivals can help you out with that.
I’ve always enjoyed Lollapalooza. It’s fun to enter into the mayhem for one weekend per year. For me, the fun has always outweighed the hassles. Then again I also don’t mind going to IKEA once in a while. Your mileage may vary.
Highlights this year were Paul McCartney, First Aid Kit, Charli XCX, and Gogol Bordello.
Surprises were Alabama Shakes (way more fun than I expected), Metallica (ditto), and Twin Peaks (I had avoided them because of their dumb name but they’re exactly the kind of band I love).
Disappointments were Father John Misty (grumpy), Lame Impala (I think I stole that joke from Twitter), Albert Hammond, Jr (sang like the guy from Midnight Oil), and the disappearance of the falafel vendor who kept me alive for the past seven or eight Lollas.
Scheduling conflicts made me miss Tove Lo, War on Drugs, Bully, and Shakey Graves.
To be honest, I would rather see Testament included in the “Big 4” line-up than Anthrax. The lineage is there and, most importantly, the band has parlayed its third decade into an example that even headliners Metallica should have considered well before the submission that was Death Magnetic.
But as much as I liked Testament’s The Formation Of Damnation, there’s very little on the band’s newest album in four years–Dark Roots Of Earth— that would indicate that the time in between was spent on forging ahead on lyrical matters to match the top-notch thrash delivery.
The theme of war is packed within Dark Roots Of Earth, but good luck finding anything beyond clichés like “sea of rage,” “crimson rain,” and “raining seas of crimson rage.” Ok, I made the last one up, but just watch Billy use it for a line in Testament’s next release.
“True American Hate” sounds nothing more than a ready-made soundtrack for aggro meatsticks who view war as nothing more than video games with little consequence. The inspiration, claims vocalist Chuck Billy, came after seeing video of Middle Easterners burning the American Flag.
It would take Billy just a few seconds of research to discover the similarities between our endless occupation and that of his own well-documented Native American heritage. It’s not a matter of being on the right side of politics either, but to sum up a gut-check reaction to a video specifically choreographed to rile up Americans is just plain lazy.
Almost as embarrassing is the ballad “Cold Embrace,” which was evidently included as some kind of way to break up the record’s non-stop brutal delivery. It certainly wasn’t included to feature Billy’s thin vocal style and he sings some bullshit about a mythical sleeping beauty.
If there’s anything, or anyone, that can save Darks Roots Of Earth from the weight of its hokey hawkish celebration of war, it’s guitarist Alex Skolnick’s incredible soloing. It manages to save the record during points where you become absolutely numb to the countless mentions of “hate,” dim-witted references to “liberty” and “freedom,” and confusing allusions to the American war-machine, which seem to support and criticize it simultaneously.
Dark Roots Of Earth is a lowest common denominator metal record that places fans in the unfortunate position of having to defend Testament’s narrow-minded jingoism instead of celebrating their unquestionable abilities as one of thrash’s elder statesmen.
On second thought, let’s put Overkill on the Big 4 line-up instead.
The pairing is so unusual that one is inclined to immediately react with “Wha?” followed by a gut-checked “It’s gonna suck.”
And after listening to Lulu, I would encourage everyone to listen to their impulse reaction.
I’m curious to hear the responses of people who are admitted fans of this record, true loyalists who find some redeeming value to this project, beyond the canned responses that I’ve been hearing all along. Sure, the making of Lulu may have indeed been a liberating experience for the members of Metallica, but how liberating is it for fans of either artist who already view each new release with a distrusting eye?
Because ultimately, Lulu will have to be defended by them and they should be prepared for a long, arduous journey.
The entire idea of matching Lou Reed with Metallica doesn’t make sense. The band is not known for rubbing shoulders with the avant-garde while Reed isn’t exactly known for running around in thrash circles.
To be polite, the two sound as uncomfortable together on tape as they do in your mind.
At one point during “Pumping Blood,” the band repeats a monotonous guitar figure while Reed barks out the song title, occasionally breaking out into what appear to be verses. One example during the song finds Lou spitting “Waggle my ass like a dog prostitute coagulating heart…Pumping blood…C’mon James!”
He’s encouraging Hetfield because the song–as does most of the album–plods along like a lazy rehearsal. No interesting riffs arrive and Lars Ulrich tentatively drums the whole mess into nothing. There’s huge holes in some of his parts suggesting that he could have been replaced by Mo Tucker and Lulu would have least sounded rhythmically appealing.
There are no solos for Kirk Hammett in Lulu and I could hear no evidence that he wanted to get his feet wet with any real weirdness to break up the endless parade of jug-jug-jugs and big chord bridges. At some points, and I don’t know if it’s James or Kirk playing, you can hear someone pick up an acoustic guitar and start playing like they have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing.
And if you turn the volume up as loud as you can on Lulu, you may be able to hear the voice of bassist Robert Trujillo muttering under his breath “What the fuck am I doing here? I wonder if I can get my gig with Suicidal Tendencies back?”
There’s something going on with Reed’s mouth too, and you can hear it throughout the record. I mean, if you’re intending for Lulu to be powerful, provocative, right?! He sounds like an old man with a lazy drawl. Hard consonants are a challenge for Lou and when he musters enough strength to scream, it sounds as though he’s merely shaking free a bunch of mucus in the back of his throat. “I want so much to hurtcha!” he threatens on “Frustration” with about as much menace as a grandpa trying to figure out how to work the remote.
There are moments where you can audibly hear Lou breathing through his nose, further suggesting the grandpa factor.
But the ground zero of shittyness is the lyrics that Reed attempts to spew out. He’s prominent in the mix, giving listeners a good glimpse of his parade of crap. There are moments when you’re jaw will drop in shock (“You’re more man than I/To be dead to have no feeling/To be dry and spermless/Like a girl/Like a girl!”). There are moments when your mouth will just be agape while your head shakes in disbelief (“The taste of your vulva…and everything on it!”). And there are moments where you’ll just blurt out in laughter (“The female dog don’t care what you got/As long as you can raise that little doggie face/To a cold-hearted pussy”).
It sounds like an improvisational affair, a project initiated on a whim while becoming a permanent artifact will be remembered as nothing more than a “What the fuck?!” moment. Generations will ponder it, and you may even find a few weirdoes in the corner that will defend this moment.
Lulu is something that may have indeed been something therapeutic for those involved, and it may even hold a special place in their heart. But that doesn’t mean it should have been offered a legitimate release date. It’s something that should have left to the vaults, a curio whose legend grows from its own silence.
Unfortunately, it’s here. It’s real. And it’s awful.
Death Magnetic is the best album that Metallica has released since …And Justice For All.
Now take a quick peek at the band’s catalog since that release and listen as the air escape from that hot air statement. What’s even more fabricated are the tales originating of how Rick Rubin set out to make an album with the same type of quality control as Master Of Puppets. It is that highlight from the numerous pre-release hype machines that convinced me—and thousands of others—that Metallica might have indeed come to their senses and set out to make an album that redeemed themselves after nearly twenty years of calculated bids for mainstream acceptance and embarrassing side steps. Yet there was that nagging understanding that there is no way that Metallica could make an album as good as Puppets regardless of whose name is listed as producer. What we really wanted to see was if Metallica could make an album as good as Justice.
Even though St. Anger doesn’t drop until June 10th, the hype for Metallica’s first studio album in five years officially cranked up earlier this month, when the thrash pioneers were the subject of their very own MTV special. The network conveniently chose Metallica as their third “Icon,” joining Janet Jackson and Aerosmith in an exclusive VIP room reserved for artists whose shadows fall darkly across the pop landscape. Taped May 3rd in Los Angeles and aired three days later, the special blew smoke up the asses of original members James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, and Lars Ulrich for a few hours, and featured covers of Metallica classics by the likes of Korn, Staind, Limp Bizkit, and – of course – Snoop Dogg. It’s not that Metallica didn’t deserve the award. Their 20+ year career and genre-defining early work definitely qualifies them for kings of the hill status. But while the program will undoubtedly help the band move a few more units of their new record, it was also a giant photo op for types as disparate as Don “Magic” Juan and Gillian Barberie. In a frenzied madness, with your leather and your spikes, heads are bobbing all around, it’s…Avril Lavigne tonight?
As the number of artists and tours that are sponsored by such asinine things as car companies multiplies, it’s good to remember those great shows you saw back in the day, before going to see a band identified you as a potential customer. For me, it all goes back to two defining shows, my first and my foremost.
My first was Bruce Springsteen at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the “Tunnel of Love Tour.” Yes, that’s right, it wasn’t the “Chevy Silverado presents the Snap Into A Slim Jim Tunnel of Love Corona Summer Beach Party on MTV Tour in conjunction with Deloitte and Touche.” It was just a tour, not part of some stupid “festival” (marketing-speak for just another way to cram more salesman into every nook and cranny of available space at your local outdoor amphitheater). Just a single great artist with about the only sponsor being the local Bud distributor. Best of all, the total Ticketmaster service fee was a hell of a lot less than the 50% it seems to run to these days. (In fact, somewhere I still have the ticket stub so I’m going to have to check on that—it could provide some interesting historical proof of the world’s biggest scam.)
Oh yeah, you people will holler about the fact that even back in 1987 there was a commensurate amount of corporate greed that no doubt tainted the Boss’ tour compared to the Glory Days back in Jersey. But it was far less insidious—who can fault the Anheuser-Busch rep for going after a market that’s primed for its product. There are clearly beer sales to be made at the Bruce show; that’s marketing where it makes sense. But pissing away money on image advertising, where there is no potential sales connection, is outright stupid. And it’s an insult to the fans—of both artist and product. To the point of the previous post: Nasty Janet and Wolfie ought to be embarrassed.
The fave show of my youth was Metallica’s first headliner. The “Justice Tour” of 1989 was an absolutely amazing display of all that is great about rock. It was held at an outdoor venue, Val Du Lakes in Mears, Mich. Still to this day I have never seen a more antisocial crowd than the collection of bikers, stoners, mullet-heads, rebellious kids, and general reprobates that attended this concert. The fans would have sooner burned the place to the ground than been identified as consumers. I saw a guy eat a sheet of acid and then smack his face on one of the hard wood benches in the reserved area. He just licked the blood as it trickled onto his lips and continued cackling, laughing and dancing. Throughout the show, people came running down the hill, throwing themselves at the wooden fence that separated the reserved area from general admission. They fought with security guards with bottles, belts and chains. And then there were the booted thugs who smashed cars after the show, screaming the lyrics to Metallica’s cover of the Misfits’ “Last Caress.” Yeah, “I got something to say. I killed your baby today. Doesn’t matter much to me, as long as it’s dead. I got something to say. I raped your mother today. Doesn’t matter much to me, as long as she’s spread.”
Gee, I wonder where the corporate sponsors were?
Now I’m not saying I necessarily advocate the pointless violence and brutality, the sado-masochism and anarchy of the Metallica crowd. But fuck it, those people are the only hope we’ve got: Rock’s essence is senseless rebellion against corporate AmeriKKKa. More power to them; hopefully they smash a few Jaguars wherever they are now. Wherever it is, it ain’t at Metallica shows. I’ve attended a couple since then and the crowd has become completely different, as has the band. They still play the old favorites, but not to any of the old fans. Good. At least those marginalized people, unlike the rest of us mainstreamers, have the sense not to give the music-industry power structure any more of their hard-earned (or stolen) cash.
Bottom line to all this is I’m glad I went to see a few big shows. I’m glad I pissed away a few bucks to make local radio stations, beer companies, cigarette companies, and the ubiquitous T-shirt companies some jack. But Ford Motor Company can go to hell. So can Barry Diller. So can DTE Energy and everyone else who incorrectly thinks that their wack corporation has any place or should play any role in the music business. I listen to music and I like to see it performed live. I like to think about music and write about it. But I don’t drive music, I don’t wear music, I don’t eat music, and I certainly don’t shop because of music.
“I got something to say. I didn’t buy into your marketing today. Doesn’t matter much to me. . . ”