Slain at HRC…and my love for early 1990’s Metallica.

Slain at Hard Rock Cafe

SLAIN, THE Bangalore-based power metal band who played at HRC on Thursday night, is pretty great.  They play really well, their performance style is exciting, and I really enjoyed their stadium-rock- centric set list.  They’ve won a bunch of competitions and generally seem to have been big men around the scene since they started out in 2006.  This is the first time I’ve seen them play (I missed them at October Fest somehow) and I’m looking forward to hearing more of them.  HERE’S their Facebook page.  HERE’S a video of them covering Bon Jovi, and HERE’S another video of a pretty kickass guitar solo.  On Thursday night they played a combination of covers and originals – including the Metallica song “Enter Sandman.” As that song’s arpeggiated opening guitar line kicked in I was grinning like an idiot…for whatever reason it’s been years since I really listened to it and it was kind of a revelation to hear it again live, so to speak.

When was 13 or 14 I went through a brief Metallica phase.  It was a Johnny-come-lately kind of fandom, initiated by my purchase of the band’s 1991 black album – that Billboard number 1 eponymous record of power ballads that alienated so many of their rabidly dedicated thrash-metal fans and started Metallica down the path of mainstream success that has culminated (or reached its nadir, perhaps) in the group’s present identity as middle-aged, Napster-suing, group-therapy attending, modern-art masterpiece-purchasing, horseback-riding shadows of their former hardcore selves.

Metallica in 1989 (yikes skinny jeans)

Too harsh, maybe?  Incipient-yuppiedom notwithstanding they’re still musically revered as one of the seminal bands of the genre and rightly so, I suppose.  They (especially with the black album) changed the sound and generally widened the appeal of metal.  And every album they’ve released since the black album has gone to number 1 on the Billboard charts, not that that means much regarding musical quality.

I was a poetry-reading goth girl into mopey-dramatic –  rather than angry-dramatic – music, but I used to listen to the black album at an obnoxious volume, lying on the floor in my bedroom, moodily brooding over whatever it was that eighth-grade me had to brood over, reveling in the operatic sincerity and the melodic opulence of the ballads, the hyper-masculine (yet oddly vulnerable?) growl-singing of James Hetfield and…17 years later and I still get a bit of a thrill from that album.

I’m dwelling on some ideas about the “life” of a pop song and of pop idols (I use the word pop loosely here, as in “popular culture.”)  What kinds of power – affective and emotional power – maintains within a pop recording even with repeated listenings? What changes take place in our listening as we return to old pop song loves? Why it is that listening to the Beatles is an almost completely emotionally bankrupt experience for me now (it has something to do with their songs being used on commercials, as well as the uber-glorification of everything baby-boomer by the boomers themselves and how just so very sick of all things boomer it has made me.  Particularly about how amazing and wonderful Woodstock was – let’s be done with that forever, please.)

It’s subjective, I know.  But that’s the point with popular culture, right?  The experience of it is subjective but it’s shared; it’s commodified and deeply emotional (those aren’t necessarily opposed, of course); it’s mediated but even the mediated experience is powerfully immediate.  It’s of its particular time and place (Beatles, Liverpool, 1964,  Fela Kuti, Lagos, 1974) but it travels effortlessly and weirdly unchanged or else completely reworked and differently-meaning through time and space. It’s about memories but it’s also about the future – about aspirations and visions of who we might like to be.

Well anyway. HERE’S a video of Metallica playing Enter Sandman in 1991.  A hundred-thousand Muscovites can’t be wrong, huh?

Published in: on April 3, 2010 at 10:12 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. it was all about master of puppets

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