Metallica

Ten years after this strip was drawn, we’re in “beloved old veteran” territory as far as Metallica is concerned, where their youthful transgressions against the buying public are nullified and forgiven. In theory, anyway.

Just under a year ago, we lost Lemmy Kilmister, so perhaps our judgment of heavy-metal personalities has softened in grieving. After the 2016 Death March, the continued presence of any elderly entertainer seems a miracle. I myself simply assume a performer is dead, unless I hear otherwise. Pat Cooper: alive as of this writing.

Maybe, because James Hetfield got the skin on his arm torched off by a 1200° flash pot on stage back in the day, I don’t feel compelled to mention that his voice has always sounded like a put-on to me. Funny how that works; an indisputable horror keeps me from fairly criticizing what I hear, as I would other music.

It’s a way to game the system, and no one can call you on it without making themselves look bad, as I’m doing here.

Another, more widespread example of the same method, is to do what Dave Mustaine did: find God. 

You are under no obligation to do anything after making this declaration. No one will dare question you; they can’t. Everyone will leave you alone. As soon as they see you in front of a church on Sunday, with that Bible in your hand, they know you called “base”. No matter what you did in the past, you are clearly on the road to betterment. 

It works even better than AA, because if recovering alcoholics find out you’re a faker (and they will), they scald you with hot coffee. You can lie like a rug about God, and no one can ever bust you on it, or administer the beating you richly deserve. There’s no limit to how far you can go with it. It has an unbeatable success record. Even I, an avowed heathen and cad, don’t mess around with the Big G. That way lies madness and fish decals.

When I was a college freshman in 1990, there was still considerable controversy over Andres Serrano’s installation from three years earlier, Piss Christ. I’d defend Serrano as an artist if I had to, but frankly, I’m not impressed by work that spreads by provoked reaction, unless that reaction is laughter. “Hey, I heard on the news that some guy put Jesus in pee” isn’t how I’d like people to learn about art.

Serrano did the covers of the Metallica albums Load and Re-Load. The covers are even less popular than the albums themselves, with the metalheads. Imagine the glee of stocking an album that appeared to be the target of a bukkake massacre. Then, a year later, you get to do it again, this time with giant period clots.

Sorry, folks, I’m a full-time starving artist. I rankle at these bodily-fluid rutters. It’s purely juxtaposition of concepts, no technique or skill. Remember the next art-obscenity spat, in ’96, with Chris Ofili’s Holy Virgin Mary rendered partly in elephant shit? That contained more technique and skill than Serrano’s photographs and installations. All of this is more or less forgotten because it’s not politically hot to fuck with after first blush. That’s what happens when you do this kind of thing. Everyone tries to forget.

Like the Napster thing. Or Lars Ulrich’s promising tennis career. Or Metallica’s treatment of the amiable Jason Newsted. Or S&M. 

I try to forget the terrible accident 30 years ago that claimed the life of one of the greatest metal bassists of all time, its unimaginable and grisly details, and the horrific realization that no one or no thing could be found responsible. I try to forget James Hetfield pacing down that cold, dark, excruciatingly Swedish highway, screaming wide-eyed in the night for an answer. I try to forget that Cliff Burton was only 24.

It’s like pulling teeth.

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