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Pissed!
By Johnny Angel

Sad But True:
Hair today, gone tomorrow

BRAND NEW Metallica album--first one in four years--and whaddya s'pose the fans are gabbling about? What else but the band's new coiffures, of course. Intelligent spunks that these metalloid gurus are, they figured that summer's here and the time is right for short hair in the street--and everywhere else.

Headlining that altie/capitalist orgy, the 1996 Lollapalooza tour, the quartet probably wanted to look de rigueur for the occasion. But when I queried the punters at Reckless Records last week in San Fran as per Metallica's new look, you'd have thought that James, Lars, Jason and Kirk were sodomizing choirboys from the general reaction. "They look fuckin' ridiculous," said my buddy Elliot, who then concluded that "this record has to blow the big one."

Hmmm. As a wee child, I do recall that when the Beatles grew mustaches, there was a major to-do, but that was a sign of the times. So I thought. History repeats here, but I think that the real villain hereabouts is the Muthaship MTV.

Gotta assume Metallica was damned if they did or didn't on the tonsorial appearance issue. Had they remained in their hirsute state, they'd have been risking the charge from know-it-alls at MTV central of dinosaur-dom, surely the buss of death at Hipster-Wannabeville International. And they must have known going in that their regiments of suburban heshers would be skeptical to the max, but that's the risk you take. Image is critical, especially after you've been weaned on the video teat, and as the group made its crossover move with its last disc, Metallica, they are now beholden to the cable god. As they themselves would say, sad but true.

Such is the price for success. I mean, goddamn if the news account of the band's San Jose free appearance wasn't prefaced by a yuppie anchorweasel on the telly saying, "As Metallica themselves would say, 'Don't tread on me,' " as per the band's incipient legal battles with that city's licensing board. That's mainstream, man, so who can fault them for wanting to hold on to the gold as long as they can?

Oh, I nearly forgot: the record. Load is an okay showing, two great songs, "King Nothing" and "Ronnie," the latter a tribute to Skynyrd's Ronnie Van Zant over a vintage mid-'70s guitar hook. The rest is sort of undefined banging on the themes set down on their 1991 blockbuster, only without the high relief signature riffs to keynote. New fans will like it, fans of Kill 'Em All won't, as if Hetfield et al. care anymore.

Me, I think the new disc is alright, tolerable hard rock in an era full of unbearable Metallica-derived macho clonings (Korn, 311). Listen and don't look at the photos if it hurts too much, and see if the spirit still moves you, okay?

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From the June 13-19, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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