[Originally published 1992 |
Updated here 1999.06.20
You can't take heavy metal seriously. Well, I can't, anyway. With all the profundity of tractor pulls and nitro-burning monster trucks, it's a cultural antidote to the tame composure of Roxette and Wilson Phillips. To me, metal offers mostly visceral thrills, but I get the additional diversion of imagining myself and my friends luring some unkempt bass player to a secluded alleyway and turning that long, dirty hair into flaming red pigtails, just like Pippi Longstocking. Stuffing him into a sundress or a dirndl skirt is optional.
Allow me, then, gentle headbanging homosexualist reader, to nominate Mike Muir as first victim. Late of Suicidal Tendencies, now he's flogging the Infectious Grooves, whose début The Plague that Makes Your Booty Move (Sony Music) is most enjoyable on the opening funky tracks where the booty is, indeed, induced to move. The devil-may-care speedmetal on the rest of the album let me down, but the true knuckle-biting disappointment is the cover graphics' nondepiction of the smart, stocky Muir trussed up in ropes. Of course, we have an old Suicidal Tendencies album for that.
And by the way, guys, we can do without the plague metaphor; it may just be a word to you, but some of us are living it.
Bestiality abounds in Pantera, whose name cognoscenti will recognize as that of a Ford-made performance car of the 1970s. Frankly, I can take or leave the single "Cowboys from Hell" (Atlantic Records), but if the song's video is any barometer, for pure carnal spectacle chanteur Phil Anselmo is king of the hill. Shirtless, tattooed, sweaty, and barely keeping his pants around his hips, P.A.'s atavistic body language shouts, "Aargh! Fuck me! Shoot me! I don't care which!" [And given the accusations of Aryan Nation-esque songwriting on later albums, maybe one does care after all.]
Fudge Tunnel – that's their legal name; fags can call them Fudgepacker – are a living 45 played at 33 1/3. Pronounce the word "grunge" over a period of thirty seconds as you gradually exhale the last molecules of air from your lungs and you have an idea of the sensibility at work here. Their cover of "Sunshine of Your Love" is so bad it's good. They're from England, by the way, where apparently a metal album can get away with two titles – here the options are Hate Songs in E Minor and Fudge Tunnel's First Movement. Wear latex gloves just in case.
And speaking of titles, I wonder if the guys in Prong wrote their band's name on a Slinky, stretched it out, and filled in whatever letters they could think of until it made a phrase. They ended up with Prove You Wrong (Sony Music), a disc of fiery, sometimes almost hummable rhythms and lyrics of disaffection and cynicism and confrontation. Your average rock person could like this album, and several times a month it speeds me through household chores like doing the dishes. Recommended.
Cultish British dancemongers the KLF are emulating the Pet Shop Boys in dredging up pop heroines of yore – in this case, the one and only Tammy Wynette. The very idea of Wynette singing in one of the KLF's wiggy dance tracks is the kind of thought the telepaths in Scanners projected to blow up people's heads.
"Justified and Ancient," the resulting single, displays an oddly holographic quality, where individual details encapsulate others from within the KLF oeuvre. "They call me up in Tennessee," the living legend sings in that unmistakable voice. "They say, `Tammy, stand by the Jams.'" Fans will pick out simultaneous references to the KLF's nom de plume, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, or Jams, a term heisted from the science-fiction trilogy Illuminatis; the name of the song itself; and Miss Wynette's career-defining anthem, "Stand By Your Man." Not bad for a couple of lines.
Multitextual possibilities are taken to the absolute max in the video. Sigue Sigue Sputnik-like titles in Japanese and Chinese scroll by, while English titles repeatedly identify the KLF staff rapper. (What's his name? Ricardo Da Force. Who is he? Ricardo Da Force.) You can find visual intra-KLF references, too, like the police cruiser that symbolized the band's former incarnation, the Timelords. For all this juicy detail, though, the video's stagey pyramid-sailing-the-Nile production number features London's ugliest bad dancers (the choreography was more like crowd control) in a spectacle which blacks and Japanese-Canadians might well find racist. But at a musical level, "Justified and Ancient" is excitement from start to finish.