Mastodon – metal for readers of The Guardian

Mastodon are one of the most successful metal bands of recent times in many ways. At least critically, they’re endorsed by most of the magazines that cater for the scene, plus they also seem to have the liberal-arts press on their side. And they play venues like Brixton Academy. Yes, they are approved by the types of “music journalists” who write for the Guardian.

As a fan of metal music, I have never enjoyed Mastodon. I have sampled their complex, detailed, progressive heavy ponderings several times and it always leaves me decidedly flaccid. Nope, nothing. If anything, it encourges my penis to shrink like when its really cold. Not that I’m a fan of music generally labelled “prog”, anyway. Mastodon are sort of the stoner-friendly equivalent to those insipid spermicidal music-twat-geeks Dream Theatre.

But now, Mastodon are back with another album. And here it goes again: metal for the middle classes – we don’t care if its enjoyable, as long as we can put it on our shelf amongst the fucking World Music collection and fucking Sting.

STING!
FUCKING STING!

This is metal where complex idea matters over flow; where elaborate time signatures destroy groove; where thoughts are thoughts, always played but never felt; where riffs are lost. Where Soundgarden’s intention to get on mainstream radio sounded good, but not complex enough. Remain in the middle of the road, but let’s just bring in some ideas from Pink Floyd, or some other overblown shit-specked flatulence. Nothing from King Crimson, mind – some of that shit was actually interesting. No, this is progressive where progressive means a genre and not an attitude towards the art in question.

This is conservative prog.

As I write this, I am listening to Mastodon, and FUCKING WHY? THIS IS BOLLOCKS, just bollocks. BOLLOCKS. This is metal as anti-Black Sabbath, metal for people who never understood the sheer joy in the lead riff of Black Sabbath; who think early Metallica is just juvenile; who think Motorhead are good, but could do with more time changes and more melody. This is metal for the anti-metal, made for people who paint their homes beige; who buy wholesale into post-modern academia; who don’t question Michele Foucault; who buys everything on BBC’s the Culture Show; who think Alan Yentob isn’t at all a bit of a pretentious knob; who read the Guardian and aren’t at all embarrassed and depressed by the fact it’s the only major faintly liberal-left voice in the mainstream in Britain, and who think their media journalists aren’t essentially failed wankers ‘cos they write about metal for the fucking Guardian.

Take your prog and shove it.

Weezer – Back to the Shack

The first two Weezer albums are two of the finest exponents of American pop/rock music ever produced thus far. They are impossible to turn off, and absolutely joy to listen to. I quite enjoy the green album, think Pork and Beans was a great song, but I haven’t really paid that much attention to their catalogue since the green album. Their music seemed to go off the boil for me a bit, and most of the songs didn’t quiet connect.

And, this seems to be a wider feeling – two perfect albums, and a few good songs since then but nothing really that mouth-wateirng. With the new single, Back to the Shack, Rivers Cuomo seems to acknowledge this.

Here, the focus is on big riffs, and bigger chorus – ones ordered off of a menu for a sing-a-long. And, really, there’s nothing bad about the song, but it does feel a bit as if they’re phoning it in. Perhaps this perception is not helped by the honest, if rather depressing lyrics.

No one comes off that well, here. Cuomo is saying that the audience were unwilling to go along with his escipades into other sorts of music, while he is criticising himself for not clinging to these unmoving bunch of luddities:

Sorry guys, I didn’t realise/that I needed you so much. I thought I’d get a new audience, I forgot that disco sucks.

The chorus features the line “rockin’ out like it’s ’94”. While the second verse is more personal and more reflective, saying he’s grown up as a person (and also features what I take to be a The Who reference in a semi-bass fuzz break), it’s a sad proclamation. ‘What’s the point in trying to change, to progress’ the song seems to ask; why bother experimenting; sorry guys, we were wrong, no hard feelings, hey? – even if the song does sneakily feature an interesting solo and the chorus stole a synth sound from Gary Numan.

This is not a reclamation of the glory of Weezer, but rather a defeated “fuck it, we tried, but what’s the point in fighting conservativism?” I may not have paid much attention to the last few years of the Weezer catalogue, but I never thought an attempt to reclaim their youth was a good idea – is this a musical midlife crisis? The sonic equivalent of buying a motorbike?

Whenever this sort of thing happens (and it happens quite often) I find referring to Gorilla Biscuits’ ‘New Direction’:

hats off to bands that change.
Good luck, go your own way.
Why play for us, if your heart’s not in it?

And, while I am intentionally misinterpreting the lyrics of the song as a whole, I always found these lines was pertinent to both bands and the audience: why bother playing that stuff if you’re heart’s not in it, you’re just cashing in and that’s not cool. But, also it is always a shame about the conservatism of crowds – whatever fuckwits say, the black album is a superb piece of music; the two Michele Graves albums of the Misfits are great; and there’s nothing wrong with a band experimenting and doing weird things. What’s the fucking point in the 7th album of the same thing, over and over again?