Friday, April 17, 2009

More Bricks To Throw at Metallica

Well, they did, they inducted the mechanical thrashers Metallica into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while my hometown boys, Iggy and the Stooges and the sainted MC5 have yet to be given a serious consideration. As with anything else that begins as a good idea and then lasts a number of years beyond its relevance, the RRHOF seems to have ossified on all the clichés that have ever been written to sell rock and roll as a rebel’s art. Sell indeed; Metallica seemed to have done nothing more with their recorded output except take the ideas of other bands and make them faster, louder, something like a cross between Deep Purple, Lou Reed and Yes in the ways the respective elements of chronic riffing, lower-rung rage and self-loathing, and over busily arrangements and rapid time signatures have been forced together in a shotgun wedding of stale ideas. Of course, we should think them elevated and serious; I find them patently ridiculous. Metallica is perfectly ordinary, and no amount of close inspection to their lyrics or their solos will make these fellas any less pretentious and annoyingly self-important. For guitar work, I'll take anything from Joe Pass, John McLaughlin or Steve Morse over the ostinato-glutted hysteria these guys offer up as expressive breaks in their lumbering arrangements. I will dedicate some time to listening to better music, thank you.

I very much doubt that more orchestration or operatic readings of already histrionic material would change my opinion of Metallica's directionless frenzy. What they do, though, is little more than a synchronized slamming of car doors, and beyond representing all the unspent adrenaline and immature anger that is the province of male brains that haven't reached full maturity, there is nothing beyond their volume and their alacrity. It's a good thing you like the Stooges, but really, they were way ahead of the curve. The Stooges, the MC5, and the Velvet Underground invented punk rock, and all things being equal, these bands are infinitely more interesting than the dunderhead pud-pounding of Metallica and the subculture they claim to represent.

The fact remains, the Stooges and the MC5 (along with the Velvet Underground) created the punk rock aesthetic and formed the first genuinely alternative rock to what the record companies were marketing. Even in an era, the Sixties, whose survivors pride themselves on their musical inclusiveness, the above three bands were the ones you didn’t invite your party; they were anti-consensus, anti-good time, and performed a music that stripped itself of any attempts to be “poetic” or socially redeeming. Instead, their vocabularies were stripped to the bone, expressing the untreatable pain that stabbed you in the heart as the world contradicted itself. Stooges, MC5, Velvets, all were bands that had nothing invested in affirming an audience’s idea of itself. Their fatalism was natural, not acquired, and this is the reason, I think their respective albums still sound fresh and bracing some forty years later. Defenders of Metallica, sure enough, will attack the lack of professional musicianship on the part of the three bands, and emphasize Metallica’s technical prowess on their instruments. This misses the point, and I suspect these guys would make ideal Olympic Event Judges, where speed, accuracy, and agility are everything. This isn’t the case with rock and roll.

If you're going to insist that technical expertise makes for better rock and roll, you've got a severely limited idea of what rock and roll should be. It's a primitive music in essence, and I think it more intriguing and worth dwelling on Iggy's idea of sub-literate anger and joy to be more visceral and convincing than the muscle-car slamming of Metallica's impotent, aged, dented hide. Really, Metallica is Arena Rock, as corporate as Journey ever was. They really and truly suck the Big One, long deep and hard.


  1. I don't understand how anyone can take themselves seriously by doing a comparative essay on The Stooges versus Metallica! They are totally different, in very different sub-genres of 'rock'. I hate pigeon holing bands into catagories - music is supposed to be expressive so it can mould into anything it wants to, but to do a comparison on two bands that are so evidently different is ridiculous in itself. It would be akin to slating drum n bass in favour of trance - just different.
    You like the Stooges - fair enough. By why slate Metallica just because they are nothing like this band! You evidently like this type of music so why not spend your time and energy writing constructive reviews about it or organising events / festivals in order to promote and revive it instead of being bitter. You have to have come from a particular background and experience with your own individual journey to get to a head space where you can appreciate an artist.
    My path has led me to be an avid Metallica fan (amongst many other bands / music art forms), and without their music I honestly do not know where I would be today. It nurtured me into who I am as I have grown with it. A good but possibly flawed person, who is nevertheless relatively intelligent with a passion for music that will never leave.
    I find more heart and 'soul' and comfort in Metallica's lyrics and music than I have ever discovered in any other band, and for me that is what the essence of rock n' roll is about.

  2. Dougie DooBong10:55 AM PDT

    this is real as it ain't about hustlin,fuckin bitches,and smokin weed.this is song that tells a real life story,that can get people throught problems, digging daddy's claw hammer, the crow with the machine gun and the fuckin dog-schnozz under the fence.this is reall shit man.

  3. Metallica are an overripe zit just waiting for Iggy's thumb and forefinger to come along and squeeze that red , festering mound until it pops that yellow crud that looks like a lumpy custard your granma tried to get you to eat 'cuz she hated having to feed you 'cuz your mom and dad were face down in their own juices at the Robin Hood Lounge on Livernoise where they thought they would watch the Tigers hammer the Cards only to wind up getting hammered themselves on Strohs and Jim Beam, singing Benny Goodman tunes at two in the afternoon until their respective lights went out but good.


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