As Bob Seger sang, “rock and roll never forgets…” Not that you’d notice though. Hip-hop and pop reign supreme on the radio, in movies, and on TV. And lately it seems rock and roll has become more of a guilty pleasure, resigned to man-caves where Neanderthal types swill beer, stand around looking at motorcycles, and play AC/DC way past appropriate volumes. Well, long live heavy metal, because we ain’t dead yet. There’s still plenty of time to listen to big band favorites. After all, what are we gonna do, pull up at a stoplight playing Lawrence Welk at maximum volume?
This month we have a few releases guaranteed to help you pound the pavement into submission, especially if you’re the type who has at least one saddlebag stuffed with an amp and subwoofer. Who needs loud pipes when you have loud speakers? And no, we’re not promoting socially irresponsible or hearing-threatening behavior by casting a vote for loud music. Sometimes you just gotta kick out the jams. Listen responsibly.
Ok, so this may seem like a strange pairing at first. Bay Area metal band meets former NY glam rocker. The introduction was sealed when Lou and Metallica performed together a few years ago at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert. And while it’s been a long while since Lou’s days with the Velvet Underground and his Transformer days, Lou Reed knows a thing or two about rock and roll. 1974’s Rock ’n’ Roll Animal still ranks up there as one of the best live albums ever recorded.
Lulu is a rock opera of sorts. It was inspired by German expressionist writer Frank Wedekind’s plays Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box, which tell the story of a young abused dancer’s life and relationships, which are corrupted by men and other characters. Since their publication in the early 1900s, the plays have been the inspiration for a silent film (Pandora’s Box, 1929), an opera, and other creative endeavors. The plays were very controversial for their day and have remained so since. And since Lou has always been in the avant-garde when it comes to literary expression through music, it seemed like a naturally progression for Lou to propose Lulu to Metallica as their first collaboration.
Since this double-CD’s release last Halloween, critics have not been kind. No, there’s no “Enter Sandman” re-dos. Or “Sweet Jane” for that matter. But all the other signature Metallica elements remain. Hammett, Hetfield, Trujillo, and Ulrich prove they remain at the top of their game, even without those wild signature guitar solos. While Reeds’ vocals sound a little misplaced against the band at first, a little listening effort lessens yields plenty. A little background research on Frank Wederkind could prove useful. This ain’t The Who’s Tommy, it’s much more ambitious and not so readily accessible. Metallica fans used to less subtlety will have to work harder to enjoy this album. In the end, it’ll be well worth it—there’s a lot here to absorb. This is an adventurous effort, open to a lot of personal interpretation. And like all good motorcycles, it’s best to stretch out and let it ride…
Metallica alumni Dave Mustaine and Megadeth deserve special veteran award status in the world of hard rock (speaking of which, how is it exactly that this band isn’t in the rock and Roll Hall of Fame?). TH1RT3EN is the name of their new album, their 13th (get it?) in which the guys continue to lay down some of the best head-bustin’ tracks ever. And as a special treat for your woofers, this album also marks the return of Bassist Dave Ellefson who was with the band during the first part of their glory years from 1983 to 2002. So there’s plenty to celebrate here.
Dave Mustaine, who was born on September 13th and started paying guitar at the age of 13, has once again cranked out another slab of solid wall-to-wall rock. The album features all new tracks plus others written a few years previously. But they all hang together as a cohesive work. In bike terminology, Metallica leans towards flames and chrome, Megadeth is all black. Megadeth tunes are both sinister and dark, with brilliant flashes of political commentary thrown in. Witness “We the People,” “Public Enemy No. 1,” “Never Dead” (from the video game), and “Sudden Death.” Megadeth has lost none of its edge and appears ready to roll on through for a few more decades. Watch that volume knob—if you fry your earbuds or speakers, don’t come whining to us.