Metal Health

We tell Metallica how to get its act together, tour the state with LL Cool J and listen to Wilco

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Saturday, September 25

Metallica used to get into fistfights onstage, turn dressing rooms into latrines and rip through so many cans of beer that Alcoa stock would rise with each tour. So it's little wonder that, two years ago, the band members paid $40,000 a month to a sports therapist to help them deal with each other. As the hit documentary Some Kind of Monster reveals, the shrink in question, Phil Towle, succeeded in getting them to yell at each other a lot, then promptly tried to exacerbate their troubles when they told him he was no longer needed.

Watching the film, we were taken aback by how unqualified the guy was to help these guys. Did Towle scribble the Metallica logo on all his notebooks in junior high? No. Did he ever play air guitar to "Blackened"? No. Did he ever vomit in the parking lot of a Metallica gig after downing too many brews? Not likely.

But we did. And these formative experiences make us much more capable than this stiff of helping Metallica overcome its woes. We've read Ann Landers for, like, a week now, and we're on our sixth High Life, so it's time to let the healing begin. Here's what you do, guys:

Pen More Songs About Hypothermia

Growling out self-help mantras on last year's St. Anger, James Hetfield sounded like Dr. Phil trying to pass a kidney stone. "My lifestyle determines my death style," "I want my anger to be healthy," "I wanna cry" -- yeah, and so do we, when we hear crap like this. We liked the mighty Met much better when James sang about headbanging till it hurt, dudes on horses and getting trapped under ice. Metallica getting in touch with its feelings? Better to get in touch with a dozen or so beers.

Let Bob Rock Roll Elsewhere

After a decade and a half of his sanding down all of Metallica's rough edges, it's time for producer Bob Rock to move on. His surname says it all: Our grandma's fake hip is more metal than this guy. But what do you expect from a dude whose other producing credits include Loverboy, Veruca Salt and the latest from pop-punk wussies Simple Plan? From the abysmal Re-Load to the unbearable S&M, Rock has been behind Metallica's most embarrassing moments -- and that's saying something for a band that wanted to call its first album Metal up Your Ass.

Listen to the New Guy

Bassist Jason Newsted was the only member of Metallica who knew that Machine Head was more than just a record by Deep Purple. And so it was odd that the band decided to get heavy again after Newsted departed: He undoubtedly would have made St. Anger less stilted and forced. Newsted split because he wasn't allowed to contribute his ideas. Having cut his teeth in Suicidal Tendencies, new bassist Robert Trujillo has a connection with the hardcore/metal underground similar to Newsted's. And seeing as how he's got arms almost as big as Lars' ego, we're betting that the rest of the band listens to the guy.

Don't Listen to People Like Us

The members of Metallica made a record like St. Anger because so many of their longtime fans were questioning their manhood after all those watered-down albums of the '90s -- and these guys obviously take a lot of pride in their tallywackers. But, as those fans quickly found out, Metallica trying to be something they're not is just as bad as Metallica becoming radio-friendly hard-rockers. After selling 80 million records, the band has earned the right to do things its own way; that's what made it great to begin with. These guys need to call their own shots -- or call it a day. -- Jason Bracelin

Missouri Said Knock You Out
We're psyched that LL Cool J is coming to the Ed Jones Dome this Friday, September 24, as part of the Gateway Classic Football Weekend (see this week's Night & Day for the full scoop). But we were concerned when we saw that the Missouri Division of Tourism was sponsoring the event. We've already pitched Belleville natives Uncle Tupelo for our state's official troubadour -- what the hell does LL Cool J know about Missouri?

After a moment of consideration, we've decided to let it slide, but only if Ladies Love agrees to a few changes to his lyrics:

"Around the Way Girl"

Instead of:
I want a girl with extensions in her hair
Bamboo earrings
At least two pair
A Fendi bag and a bad attitude

That's all I need to get me in a good mood

Change it to:
I want a girl with a mullet in her hair
Earrings from Claire's
At least two pair
A knock-off Fendi and Payless shoes
That's all I need to get me in a good mood

"I Can't Live Without My Radio"

Instead of:
'Cause I play everyday, even on the subway
I woulda got a summons but I ran away
I'm the leader of the show, keepin' you on the go
But I know I can't live without my radio

Change it to:
'Cause I would play everyday, even on the MetroLink
I woulda got a summons but they forgot to mail it
I'm the leader of the show, keepin' you on the go
But I can't live without my t. ravs and Imo's

"1-900-L.L. Cool J"

I'm full of flair, savoir faire, debonair
There's no competition, for this here
So don't waste your time and breath
I'm givin you all a big F

This can stay basically the same, but because this is Missouri, be sure to pronounce the French words as incorrectly as possible -- perhaps as "savoir fairy" and "debonairry."

"The Bristol Hotel"

I seen her standin' there, slutty as could be
Offering the putty for an itty-bitty fee
Every red light she'll come over to your ride
Or she's standin' in the doorway tellin' you to come inside
The Bristol Hotel, 'cause it ain't no thing
And her meat tastes better than Burger King can probably keep this one just the way it is. -- Ben Westhoff

Homegrown Sounds: Wilco
Wilco made its transcendent, shocking return to St. Louis last week, a decade after its first-ever show on November 17, 1994. That debut was at Cicero's Basement Bar in the Loop, and the question on many skeptics' minds was what Jeff Tweedy was going to do for a living after Wilco sputtered. Maybe he could tour and play old Doug Sahm songs, or simply build a little following based on the one great song that he had contributed to the Uncle Tupelo oeuvre, "New Madrid." If worse came to worse, maybe Euclid Records would rehire him.

"This is bizarre," mumbled Tweedy, all growed up and wearing a sophisticated sport coat, between opening songs at the Fox Theatre, where Wilco performed to a giddy crowd on Wednesday night. He clarified the statement a few songs later: "I'm not trying to make a big deal out of it, but who would have thought we'd be playing here?"

But for us, it is a big deal. We were proven so far off-base in our early estimations of Tweedy's abilities that we deny that initial skepticism. "Casino Queen," which Tweedy dedicated to his father during the show, with its deliberate rhyme scheme and chord progression, was what Tweedy used to be. But Wilco 2004 is another beast altogether, as far removed from its inception as an egg is from an eagle. Tweedy now knows how to write great songs, songs that breathe; he knows how to build a band (the addition of guitarist Nels Cline is an epiphany) and understands a little bit about wonder and the joy of creation. You could see it on the huge screen behind him, which throughout the Fox show projected images from nature and art: Butterflies, birds, spiders, sea creatures, all doing what they were put on this crazy world to do -- spin webs, fly, swim. Simply, live. And watching Wilco, it became clear very quickly, from the opening fingerpicks of "Muzzle of Bees," that these six (!) dudes were in the middle of their own web. They are where they're supposed to be.

You can see the set list online. But the highlights from one stunned admirer's perspective were "Poor Places," from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which moved from order to chaos as an agoraphobic singer moaned, "I'm not going outside"; "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," from the recent A Ghost Is Born, in which the lock-step rhythm-fest descended into tantrum; and "Handshake Drugs," the high-water mark (so far) of Tweedy's graceful, glorious ascent. Congratulations, and welcome home. -- Randall Roberts

About The Authors

Ben Westhoff

Ben Westhoff is the author of the books Original Gangstas, Fentanyl, Inc., and Little Brother: Love, Tragedy, and My Search For the Truth.
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