Let’s rock out! Let’s make some metal! Better yet, let’s fake it! I’m not a metalhead. I do, however, know a lot about metal and have always listened to it alongside more obvious obsessions. I bought Mercury Rev’s Boces during the same record-store outing that netted Death’s Individual Thought Patterns. I know, whoop-dee-doo, but I want to distinguish myself from some windbag who latched onto this shit three years ago. It’s interesting to note that the only genre more clique-ish than indie rock is metal, and the invasion of one by the other has produced much whining and fruitless grandstanding. And rocking out? Rocking out is still a popular and novel way to spice up those breadwinning careers that are allergic to energy. Join me, dear friends and amusing enemies, for a look at a few clumsy mid-career crises, ones that result from a need to show the world that metal is cool. As of yesterday.
The ultimate Pinback show: A member of Exodus shows up and beats Rob Crow senseless with a B.C. Rich Bich guitar. Goblin Cock is nothing more than a bad Black Sabbath rip-off: proof that Crow knows nothing about metal. It’s also a bad joke. Dressing up in hooded robes and geeking out at a comic-book shop isn’t funny. (See the video for “Stumped,” off last year’s Bagged And Boarded.) Nor is Goblin Cock a funny name. If anything, this is an insult to people who care about metal. It fails at parody and entertainment.
So Nick Cave belting out some inoffensive alterna-boogie is going to sound like what? A garage-rock Danzig? I can imagine the glowing reviews now: “His lyrical themes of death and betrayal were tailor-made for a harder form of rock.” Or something. Cave did so well with the script and music for The Proposition, why ruin things now?
The promise of Jack Black’s Mr. Show days quickly gave way to a comic acting career designed for rubes. Tenacious D capitalizes on the average Joe’s amusement with the absurdities of rock music. In no way am I suggesting that rock music isn’t funny. Wouldn’t that thinking negate this column? Comedy can always be found at the expense of music. I’ll go so far as to claim that all music is comedy. But see, there was a little movie in 1984 called This Is Spinal Tap, and ever since that masterstroke, dumb-rock culture has been spoofed and ribbed to the tits by people who incorrectly deem themselves funny. Whether in casual conversation or in a blockbuster movie, the subject is dead. Liam Lynch co-wrote and directed last year’s Tenacious D movie The Pick Of Destiny. When a prosaic crap-pusher such as Lynch—whose pop-cultural frame of reference is whatever a 20-year-old Good Riddance fan finds nostalgically interesting—is combined with Black’s already limp, calculable concept, we’re left to deal with a perfect storm of mediocrity. In an uncommon show of public logic, The Pick Of Destiny flopped hard.
I’ve always believed that Slint was one of the first and best indie-metal bands. (You know those were metal riffs on 1991 post-rock landmark Spiderland, right?) Slint guitarist Dave Pajo was the architect of those mountainous downstrokes, which no one at the time wanted to admit sounded like half-speed Megadeth. And wasn’t he the secret third or fourth guitarist in Early Man when that band started out? Dead Child is Pajo’s full-on-metal project with members of the For Carnation and Papa M. If Pajo posed as Latino and had a brother who could also shred, I would no longer consider him fake metal. That was a Death Angel joke. Or, you know, a joke about the proliferation of Latino surnames in thrash metal. Sigh.
Normally, I like to work a little harder for the punch line. Body Count is still Ice-T’s “thrash metal” side project, unable to reach former levels of controversy (a free child seat if you remember “Cop Killer”) but perfectly equipped to provide a forgettable and embarrassing contrast to an acting career on Law & Order. I suspect that last year’s Body Count album, titled Murder 4 Hire for your laughing pleasure, remains unheard by anyone who paid money for this magazine.
J Mascis is a noted metal fan. The first Dinosaur Jr album offered some examples that he was listening to Venom and crossover thrash. Plus, Mascis produced UpsideDown Cross, one of the weirdest, all-time-nastiest groups of underground-metal dirtbags. He also drummed for Gobblehoof, which just didn’t make any sense. Led by Mascis’ former Deep Wound/Dinosaur bandmate Charlie Nakajima, Gobblehoof was embarrassingly—well, I don’t really know how to put it any other way—bad. Witch’s stoner boogie on last year’s self-titled debut was just barely there. Anyone can drum like that; it doesn’t have to be Mascis.
A double-edged side project! Haven’t really heard these guys, but I read somewhere that this is Iggy Pop’s old band, that they’re supposed to be important and that this reunion version is a Mike Watt side project. (And who doesn’t miss Watt’s first band, fIREHOSE?) It’ll be hard to top Pop solo albums Brick By Brick, Naughty Little Doggie and Avenue B as the ideal triumvirate of hardcore punk rock. I can get behind this, but only if the Stooges do a cover of Pop’s 1990 classic “Butt Town.”