Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Metallica... The Last 32 Years...

Metallica... The last 32 years...

Christ it's hard to believe it's been that long since the black album. I remember buying it and listening to it the first time, quite well. 

Anyway... A friend posted the question, what is the best song that Metallica has released AFTER 1991... And while I do have an answer for that, I wanted to really dig into it more than just flatly stating one song. Because I think most people... Even most people who still consider themselves huge Metallica fans (which I absolutely am)... Just skip over a LOT of material, that's actually not bad, or is even good, and is certainly worth including in your playlists.

One thing I find I always have to say during discussions about post '91 Metallica... "Load"  and "Reload" are actually a lot better than people remember. They're not great, they aren't even solidly into "good" territory, but they aren't awful either; maybe "not good", but not awful...and most people seem to remember them as being actually awful.

There are a few genuinely good songs, and a couple actual very good to great songs (or at least their live versions, as they play them currently... Which in some cases are VERY different, and much better, than the original album cuts)

The biggest problem... with a lot, maybe most of, their post '91 output actually, not just "load"  and "reload"... Is that most of the tracks should have been about 1/3 shorter... There's a bunch of just screwing around that doesn't add to the song, on a LOT of tracks.

And just to reinforce that, they still regularly play "Fuel", "King Nothing", and "The Memory Remains", in most of their live sets.... And play them MUCH faster, and much more aggressively than the album cuts. 

I'm excluding S&M, because it's not original studio releases... Otherwise half of S&M would be the top half dozen they've released post '91, simply because they're among the best songs Metallica has ever released, from all their albums to that point, compiled. It's not a fair or valid comparison. 

"St. Anger" is almost all hot garbage... I don't think there's any question, it's the worst album Metallica have ever released...but they still play "Frantic" regularly live. Personally, I don't like the album version that much, but their live version ain't bad. It's definitely hard rocking thrash at least (which you can't really say about anything from "Load" or "Reload").

I can't stand the "Death Magnetic" release mix, or the drum sound generally, but if you download the properly mixed version they licensed for "Rock Band" it's actually decent. Again, not great, but on balance, I'd say it's a good album overall. Also again, most of the songs are too long without good reason, and could probably be cut by a third and be a lot tighter, more focused, and generally better. 

Tightening the whole album up, might even have made it into a very good, or great album... Or maybe not... It would certainly be well into the good territory at least. 

"Cyanide", and "All Nightmare Long" are solid tracks (though once again, ANL is too long and needs more focus)... And "Cyanide"  is still in a lot of their live sets. Again, both live versions are better than the album tracks, because they're played faster and more aggressively, and with way more feel and energy. 

"That Was Your Life" would be good if it were judiciously trimmed. At 7:08, it meanders too much, not enough focus. A tight 4:30 to 5 minute version would just be concentrated classic thrash. "My Apocalypse" is only 5:08, but at a little under 4 minutes would absolutely thrash hard, and I think be very good to maybe even great. 

Also, I really WANT to like "The Day That Never Comes", but again, it needs to be trimmed and focused. As it is, it's mediocre at best 

So, I'm not ready to render an opinion about "72 seasons" yet, or even any particular tracks from it. 

So far I've only listened to the album straight through once, and have only played a few tracks any more than that. It's going to take me at least a few months and a few dozen listens to really "get" the album and it's songs. 

Now, we are finally back to what I consider to be at least a very good album... Maybe not truly great, when compared to their best...but very good at least, and the best original studio album they've released post '91 for sure... "Hardwired to Self Destruct"... 

I know it's been 7 years... which really it doesn't feel like it's been that long .. the last few years have really screwed with my sense of time... but I feel like I'm going to need a few more years of sitting with it and appreciating it to decide whether I think it's a genuinely great album or not... But it's at least very good. 

"Hardwired", pretty damned good, straight thrash like they haven't released since "Ride the Lightning", and their best title track since "... Justice...". 

"Atlas, Rise" feels a LOT like their attempt to do an Iron Maiden song... It doesn't QUITE work, but I still like it a lot. 

"Halo on Fire", I dunno, it's like... It feels like it shouldn't be as good as it is, but when I think about it, I always find myself liking it way more than I expect to. That said, at 8:05, its the first song on hardwired that I think would be better if it were significantly trimmed. I think it would definitely be much better, maybe even great, at around 6 minutes or maybe even less.

"Confusion" is a solid good to maybe very good. Not great, but really good. It's quite reminiscent of some of the songs on the last really good "Deep Purple" album, 1993s "The Battle Rages On" (also the last album recorded with the Mk II lineup). Actually, several songs from the album have a lot of that "harder end of Deep Purple" feel, which I really like. I also noted a lot of similar feel with the Testament album from the same year, "Brotherhood of the Snake" (when I first heard the track "The Pale King", I actually thought it WAS Metallica for a minute)... Which again, I think is a good thing. 

"Man Unkind" is the first song off the album that I think isn't at least good. It's like... Bits and pieces of the song are good in isolation, but as a whole the whole, it just falls apart and doesn't work at all. 

"Here comes Revenge" is... It's kinda "generic Metallica song" that could have been from any year of the 80s... Which means it's at least good. Nothing original or outstanding about it, but it's decent straight ahead classic Metallica. I find myself thinking again, that if the song were 4-5 minutes instead of 7, it would have been much better.

"Am I Savage" isn't GREAT, but it's got a cool, kinda funky, almost Pantera like groove to it, that I like... I'd call it good based on that. 

"Murder One" has a solid kinda "God that Failed" feel to it, which I dig, and again I'll call it good, based on that feel. Not great, not original, just solidly into the "good" category. 

"Spit Out the Bone"... Straight up, '83-'89 style thrash. Blistering galloping rhythm and riffage. It's this albums "Whiplash"... Very good, almost great, and genuinely great live (they're a bit looser on this song live... It's got more feel and energy and breathing room to it). 

And finally... To answer the original question... 

I skipped over it, because it's my final answer as it were...

"Moth into Flame", is actually just straight up a great song, period. 5:50 of straight high speed, pounding and driving, yet still nicely melodic, thrash metal...

...Best song on the album, and that's saying something, because there's not much on the album that isn't at least good, with several tracks very good to great... 

...And as far as I reckon it, the best song they've released after 1991.

Monday, May 01, 2023

"It's just normal"

I was talking about how hard it can be to get people to understand that yes, really, they actually are being racist, when they just don't think of themselves in that way at all... 

...Their idea of racism being the KKK or similar, and since that's just not them at all 8n their minds, they think "I'm not racist"... 

Even though they may say ignorantly and casually racist things, and believe ignorant racist stereotypes, etc... Because they grew up withmost people around them saying the same things, thinking the same things... And they just think that's normal, not RACIST... They're good people, and only bad people are racist right? 

... There's really a whole hell of a lot of folks like that... In fact, almost everyone has some of it unconsciously in their head somewhere... That's true whether you're white, black, puce or magenta... 

As it happens, my family presents a particularly interesting historical example. 

My Grandfather, was actually the attorney who represented the community group from south Boston, in their legal efforts to stop forced bussing of public school kids in Boston, for purposes of better racially integrating Boston public schools (which a court had determined were effectively racially segregated). 

He didn't think of himself as racist in any way. And in fact, he didn't consider being anti-bussing to be a racist position; though he acknowledged that there certainly was a lot of racism from that side of the issue.

He considered it a matter of parents choosing the environment and neighborhood they wanted to raise their kids in, and often chose those based on the quality of schools in their neighborhood. Then, some lefty judge was sticking his nose where it didn't belong, and taking kids out of their community, and sticking them on busses for up to 4 hours a day, to some school far from where they lived... Both black and white... And that it was harmful to the kids... Both black and white... 

... All of which was absolutely true... It WAS harmful to the kids, both black and white... and it was taking kids and acting against their parents choices, by force, by some crusading dogooder lefty judge, who happened to live in a very rich all white town, and sent his own kids to private school. 

... But it was also true that Boston public schools were effectively segregated, as in fact most neighborhoods of Boston were effectively segregated... 

... Which my grandfather acknowledged... He just believed it was wrong to do harm to the kids, and taking control away from their parents... in the name of addressing racial inequity.

Oh... And the folks in that community group trying to stop bussing? Almost 100% democrats, as was my grandfather. He even held several elective offices as a Democrat all the way up until 1976 (he ran a primary challenge against Ted Kennedy for Senate, and was destroyed 86% to 14%, and never ran for anything else again. Oh and his father had been a street level democratic politician as well. A Boston selectman, and one of the Democratic party delegates to the Democratic National Convention in 1912. He actually cast the Massachusetts delegations nomination vote for Woodrow Wilson). 

He didn't actively consciously hate black people, or consider blacks inferior to whites...

... And he really had a lot of good reasons why he believed he wasn't racist... 

He was born in 1931, in the worst white neighborhood in Boston... which at the time was actually much worse than the worst black neighborhood in Boston... as a first generation American. Dirt poor, but damn smart, and hard working.

He ended up getting a special full scholarship from the Catholic archdiocese of Boston, to Brandeis University, to be in their first graduating class... Brandeis of course having been explicitly founded as a university that would not discriminate against Jews or people of color.

 The archdiocese funded two competitive academic scholarships, one for a Catholic boy, and one for a Catholic girl, to be part of the first graduating class; as a gesture of ecumenical goodwill. My Grandfather won the boys scholarship. 

He went to college at a religious and racially integrated, co-ed university, specifically founded on the principles of non-descrimination. Had no issue being students with, and even friends with, black students. Made some lifelong friends there who were black. 

He then served in the newly re-integrated army, towards the end of the Korean war... Had no issue serving with black men, and again made several lifelong black friends while serving. 

He then put himself through grad school, nights, while working two jobs; one as a probation officer, and the other as a municipal road repair crew supervisor.... I honestly have no idea how he slept... But he had no problem working with black folks on probation, or in the road crew.

He got a master's in math, and a secondary certificate in education, and became a high school math teacher for Boston public schools, in Roxbury, where he taught mostly black students... And again, he had no issues teaching and relating with black students and their parents.

He then went back to night school for his JD, while teaching math during the day... and became an attorney. Many of his clients were black, and he never had any problems representing them.

He genuinely believed that he wasn't racist at all... 

But when one of his daughters tried dating a black guy, he went into a blind rage, and beat the hell out of her...

...(he was also drunk at the time... My Grandfather was the most loving, generous, kind, gentle man... When he was sober. He was also an alcoholic, and when he was not sober, he was often violently abusive. He had been a competitive boxer in high school, college, and the army. He knew how to deliver a beating, and just as an example, had broken most of my ribs by the time I was 13... When I finally got to be so big, strong, and well trained, that I could stop him from doing so ever again)... 

To his dying day, in 1996 at age 65, if you asked him, he would absolutely say that he wasn't racist... And actually believe he was telling the truth..

Except that he had a thousand little things, little ways, that he was, all the time, without even thinking about it. Using slurs against blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc... Just as the normal word he would use to talk about them. 

Making derogatory statements like "oh that's just how the" [insert whatever slur name for whatever group here] "are. You know they all" [insert derogatory stereotype here].

Getting angry at the thought of his daughter dating a black man, or Hispanic, or Asian or.. anybody but a white guy, preferably catholic. Or "God forbid" marrying one, or having a baby with one etc... Etc... 

... Not that I need to tell you ... You know exactly what I mean, obviously, you've lived it... 

Unconscious and casual racism was just, normal to him. It's how almost everyone around him was, for most of his life. He never thought about it. 

If he HAD truly examined himself in that way... I think he would have been able to change. It would have been hard, but he was a man who did hard things when he needed to. I'm sure he would have tried... And he would still have failed because a lifetime of ingrained habits is pretty hard to change, and it's somewhere between extremely hard and impossible,  to always consciously examine all those reflexive unconscious things and change them. But I think he would have done a lot better. Because he didn't want to be racist, and he specifically did want to not be racist, whenever he actually did think about it (I tried having discussions with him about it several times when I was a teenager, and he would casually say something really racist... Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't). 

... But there's no denying, he was unconsciously and casually racist, all the time... It was just normal to him, and to almost everyone around him, for most of his life.