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Paperback Master of Puppets 

We talk mashups with Beatallica, skewer Ember Swift and find out what Robert Earl Keen is really saying

Earlier this year -- in an abrupt about-face from the whiny sellout he portrayed in the documentary Some Kind of Monster -- Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich stepped up on behalf of Milwaukee-based Beatallica, a satirical mashup act whose hilarious schtick marries the songwriting prowess of the Beatles to the deep-throated rock growl of Metallica.

The band makes no money from sales of its two albums -- which contain songs like "Hey Dude," "...And Justice for All My Loving" and "I Want To Choke Your Band" -- and gives both away through its Web site, Yet in February Beatallica found themselves on the ugly end of a cease-and-desist order from Sony, demanding that they shut down the heavily trafficked site for good.

Ulrich, who liked what he heard from the band, contacted Beatallica frontman Jaymz Lennfield and offered up the services of Metallica lawyer Peter Paterno. Legal discussions are still ongoing, but the Beatallica Web site's back in action, and Lennfield expects to have reached some sort of formal agreement in the next couple of months.

Still, Ulrich's tenacity begs the question: If he and Ringo Starr got into a fight, who'd win?

"Definitely Lars," Lennfield says. "Ringo's a really smart guy, but Lars has a ridiculous amount of energy. When he called me up about the cease-and-desist order, he was out on the slopes on a skiing vacation with his family in Colorado and the guy was talking a mile a minute. Every few words would have to be bleeped out. I wouldn't want to mess with that guy."

In the meantime, although the members of Beatallica still have full-time day jobs, they'll be touring the metal-friendly environs of Germany throughout October. Lennfield promises that he and bandmates Krk Hammettson, Ringo Larz and Kliff McBurtney will bring the exponential power of two of the world's greatest rock bands.

"We definitely like to play dress-up, but we're a real band -- these guys can play," he says.

"You remember that scene from The Blues Brothers where they have the fence up around them as they're playing? Well, we need to have chainlink fence up just to keep Krk from jumping out from the stage and landing on people. He's ruined so much perfectly good equipment that way." -- Rich Sharp

Folk Implosion
Hyphen-happy Ember Swift takes herself seriously. On the track listing of her seventh CD, Disarming, she supplements each title with a multiple-genre classification. Were she Princess Superstar, we'd all have a good laugh at the irony. But alas, Ember Swift is so painfully earnest, she can only be labeled as just-run-over-by-the-douche-truck-pretentious. Even more ridiculous than her ostentation is the fact that said tags are so blatantly inaccurate. With this in mind, B-Sides decided to juxtapose Ms. Swift's labeling exercise against her actual music. -- Kristyn Pomranz

Keen for Hank
Robert Earl Keen's latest album, What I Really Mean, is earning the lyrically subversive Texan some of the best reviews of his career, suggesting a tectonic shift into mainstream might even be nigh for the folk-country singer. But the real question is: "What does he really mean?" -- especially on "The Great Hank," an absurd, spoken-word song about Hank Williams (in drag) that would qualify most men as being in need of years of therapy.

"Then there was the time I saw the great Hank Williams singing onstage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and he was all dressed up in drag/From his rose red lips to his rhinestone hips, he belted out song after song as he drank from a brown paper bag."

First off, Hank Williams might be dead, but so are Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill -- think about that. Second, Williams did not generally perform in drag, like some backwater, wannabe Lady Bunny. Third, even if he did, it would have been in Vegas, not Philly. Duh.

"As a busty suicide blond waitress said 'I thought you were dead'... he tilted his back and told her how he'd been a big star but now country music was full of freaks."

Again, Hank is dead. Mr. Keen has obviously based this song on experiences he had after chasing his tequila with a little smack. In addition, the final line here takes a swing at a new country revolution that's desecrated the memory of the genre's forefathers, like Williams (herself), Guthrie, Jennings and Cash.

"When I was only sixteen years old, I went from Houston to Abilene with a spunky, stunningly handsome woman in a Volkswagen bug...."

As is often the case with drug-fueled delusions, the imagination will wander, as it apparently did for Mr. Keen when he wrote this third, meandering verse, which, of the song's four, is the only one that doesn't take place in a dimly lit bar populated by transvestites.

"...[T]he great Hank Williams was gone, so I asked her to call me a cab/She said if you like I can give you a ride/So there we were out the door and into the City of Brotherly Love."

In a disturbing twist, the fevered vision of Hank Williams in drag has triggered a fire in Mr. Keen's loins. When the barmaid offers to give him a ride home, he jumps at the opportunity to get into her car -- and (hopefully) her Rocky Mountain jeans. While the impetus behind this decision makes B-Sides queasy, we don't judge. At least not in print. -- Cole Haddon

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September 15th, 2021

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