I recently came across a little novelty "metal" tune called "Death To All But Metal" by an extremely novelty (and, therefore, not to be taken seriously - ever!) rock band calling themselves Steel Panther (much in the tradition of band names like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi or Judas Priest - all two-word names where each word has nothing to do with the next).
Now, I get it - they're a joke band. But the musicianship and the vocal capabilities were astounding! Here - have a listen...
And in case you're interested, the lyrics are here: (highlight text to reveal)
(WARNING: EXPLICIT CONTENT)
Fuck the Goo Goo Dolls, they can suck my balls
They look like the dorks that hang out at the mall
Eminem can suck it, so can Dr. Dre
They can suck each other just because they're gay
They can suck a dick, they can lick a sack
Everybody shout, "Heavy Metal's back!"
Death to all but metal!!
Death to Papa Roach, Blink 182
All those fucking pussies sounds like doggy doo
Wearing baggy pants, spiking up their hair
They're not worth the crust in my underwear
Where is Def Leppard? Where is Mötley Crüe?
Why does all my lyrics sound like Dr. Seuss?
Death to all but metal
Kills those fucking fuckheads who program MTV
They can suck my ass with all the record companies
Death to Britney Spears, kill the little slut
Kill Madonna too, and then fuck her in the butt
Fuck Maria Carey, death to Sheryl Crow
They can kiss each other on the camel toe
50 Cent's a fag, so is Kanye West
Shootin' hot sperm on each others chest
Death to all but metal!!
Okay, so... that may have been the most crude, disgusting song ever written. But I'm conflicted. Is this a parody? Or is it actual Rock N' Roll? I mean, the fact is, it's loud, it's brash, it's accusatory. It's straight and to the point - and it does have a point! It's angst from the hearts of some rock-purists who are sick and tired of "Jack FM" and VH1 - top 20 radio, iTunes, and what MTV has become. They're "takin' it back", so to speak. It's brash and offensive and vulgar and it rhymes! This is everything a really great hard rock song is supposed to be about.
And yet, I'm totally appalled and completely against this new style of "glib rock". It's a testament to the "dumbing down" of America's youth culture. I hate to sound like an old geezer here, but... back in my day, we had Public Enemy ("Bring Tha Noise", "Can't Truss It", "911 Is A Joke", "Don't Believe The Hype" and "Fight The Power"!) We had Aerosmith singing about teen molestation from the point of view of the victim, and Pearl Jam singing about adolescent violence to the point of murder in the classroom. Axl Rose gave us "November Rain" and "Estranged" - swirling, orchestral epics which explored - not the concepts - but the very essences of isolation, disillusion and abandonment. These songs were powerful, dramatic and shocking, and yet they were poetic and beautiful at the same time.
Going back even further, we had Led Zeppelin singing about the mysticies of black magic and AC/DC ranting that "Rock n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution". We had Twisted Sister screaming "We're Not Gonna Take It" and Queen chanting "We Will Rock You". Rock has always been aggressive and in-your-face (- that's why we like it!) And it just doesn't pull any punches - Rock always tells you how it feels and never apologizes for its cruel, impolite approach.
And yet, this....
This is "rock"? These are lyrics that would spew from the underdeveloped minds of the most dimwitted dolts in any 6th grade class in America. The band has no style of its own - they're entire shtick is to imitate the outrageous glam-metal look of the early 80s and bands like Poison and Motley Crue. They may have a point in their song, and they may be right on the money... but how about a little artistry, people? Is that too much to ask?
And my biggest fear is this: It's not just this band. It's all of today's "big" rock acts. I used to like Nickelback - they used to be a revival of those aforementioned old rock bands. But since The Viacom leviathan (MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon) got a hold of them, well... just listen to their new album, "Dark Horse"; it should have been called "No Risks". And that goes for all the bands making it out there today, with perhaps a few minor exceptions. The Jonas Brothers? Really? Kids are calling this rock? Or even "pop"!?! They give "pop" a bad name! Have you seen this Lady Gaga chick? The Plain White Tees? Shinedown? (Who, by the way, had completely sold out by time their 2nd album was released!) Seether? THE FRAY!?!? For my purposes today, and with no irony lost on this writer, I shall refer to Steel Panther - and all of these "rock" bands - as "butt-metal".
I know, I'm complaining in much the same fashion that the singer of Steel Panther would. But my point is that even the best "rock" of today has absolutely NOTHING to offer - not the way "MY" music did. The 80s and 90s rock meant something. So much of it had depth and volume on a scope so magnificent, it wouldn't even be recognized in the industry if it were released today, amidst this garbage.
And so, I find myself boo-hooing like an aging rocker, wearing my Rage Against The Machine t-shirt, my flannel coat and worn-out Chuck Taylors, sitting in an old rocking chair, strumming a slow, amp-less rendition of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on a beat-up, old, second-rate electric guitar and yelling at the kids on my lawn that they're music is crap, much like the man who - when I was a kid - used to sit on his porch in a vintage Buffalo Springfield shirt from 1968, with a long red beard and a bandanna on his head, and a beat-up old acoustic guitar on his lap, strumming the chords to "The Times They Are A-Changing" and yelling at me that my music was crap. The circle of life, it seems, will continue.
But there is one beacon of light on the horizon. It seems that, with the advent of video game technology and the innate sense within the human spirit to seek out and ingest quality rock music, the gaming kids of today have been blessed with the likes of the "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" games, not only exposing them to the sounds, but to the experience of some of rock n' roll's greatest accomplishments. Perhaps "Rock n' roll", as Brian Johnson proclaimed gleefully into a microphone and onto an 24-track recording suite back in 1979, "it will survive."