Pete's Blog

Metal

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I have to say, with apologies to my children, that I'm not crazy about the music known as metal, formerly heavy metal, more recently new metal, punk-metal, metalcore, grindcore, and other semantic subdivisions on and on into the distance, a march of ever-narrower stylistic definition that would do a medieval theologian proud. My problem isn't the volume or the nihilism or even the fact that you can't hear the words. My problem is the emotional sameness of it all, one screaming rant after another, a one-note act repeated until the performers (and the audience) can't stand up anymore. There is one thing I really like about metal, though, specially the newer varieties that present themselves as a variation on the punk thing. I never liked punk, for the same reason I never liked the Monkees: You're expected to pay good money to see people who can't play their instruments. I know the '70s punk explosion was a reaction to the bloated pretension of much post-'60s rock and blah blah blah. But if you're calling it music it's supposed to be music, and better music than you could make yourself at home. Say what you will about metal, it involves being able to play. One metal band is better than another metal band because they can play better - the rhythm section drives better, the guitars shred more. I find this a tremendous relief, because I thought the Sex Pistols, the Monkees, and the Grateful Dead were conspiring to lead their respective followings, and the rest of us, over a cultural cliff into the place the visual arts can be found these days, a place where what you do doesn't matter as much as what you think, which means, really, how cool you are. Metal isn't cool. Never has been. It can be smart or stupid, but by definition it can never be half-assed. The fact that an entire generation came out of the punk thing wanting music that challenged the players' skill does more to restore my faith in humanity than any other cultural trend of my lifetime. Metal - long may it wave.

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