Saturday, September 6, 2008

20. The Scorpions - Rock You Like A Hurricane (1984)
(File under: Heavy Metal Blunder: Hell's Jukebox)

If you're even a moderately reasonable human being who spent any time existing in the past 100 years, the very concept of German heavy metal should fill you with profound dread. What happens when you marry a subculture and a culture that have both been guilty of flirting with fascism (or at the very least, domination)? Why, stupid generic hard rock (merely) competently played, of course. You were expecting maybe brutally downbeat pneumatic drill noise performed by Aryans in stormtrooper outfits? If so, you obviously possess only the most tenuous understanding of the level of humor generally displayed by metalheads (not to mention Germans).

So, musically, this is hardly threatening - "slick" would be the adjective I'd use, sound-wise. As far as physical presence, I doubt anybody'd cross the street if they saw these guys coming, either - not with a midget lead singer who sports a balding-Richard-Simmons-on-a-commune 'fro and a bunch of blandly Teutonic-looking featherweights with the de rigeur "Look at my circumcision scar" tight-beyond-fuck spandex trousers of the period. Well, the drummer's a bit chunky, I guess, but what do you expect? He's a heavy metal drummer. Probably forgets he's already eaten breakfast by 11:00 and stops by the nearest 7-11 for some nachos (mit jalapenos!) on a near-daily basis. And that one guitarist even has a moustache! In 1984! Just like he's in Toto or REO Speedwagon or something. I ask you, is that rock and roll? Shirley knot.

What's it sound like? Well, in case you've spent the last 25 years in a submarine deep beneath the briny depths and haven't had the incredible opportunity to hear it yourself, it sounds pretty much like Free or Bad Company speeded up a couple BPM and produced to within an inch of its (already flatlining) life. Not much here to compel you to take up arms against the government, or even pop in a Fritz Lang DVD. But of course, it also has lyrics. Turns out - shock of shocks! - The Scorpions are of a somewhat sexist bent, albeit with a decidedly Germanic twist: reverse-anthropomorphizing women. In one line, diminutive singer Klaus Meine refers to the object of his pig-lust as a cat, in the next, a "bitch" (and in the next, for all I know, a ring-tailed lemur - I can barely decipher his heavily-accented English when he's not screeching, which is never). He further advises that, when dealing with said "bitch", you "give her inches and feed her well" ('cause she's hungry, see? You get it? Oh, these hard rockers and their sly innuendo). Will do, Klaus! Sounds like a smashing good course of action. The sad thing is, when you consider all this in light of 20th century German history, this actually amounts to progress.

In any event, one day in the not-so-distant future we'll all be dead, and none of this will matter in the least. Now - who's up for some pudding?

21. Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick (1972)
(File Under: Bach Don't Rock: Prog)

Holy Jesus on a giraffe, Jethro Tull. First off, this song was the length of the entire album - which meant, in 1972, that you had to get up and flip it over after 22 minutes, utterly fucking up the flow (and your high - I refuse to believe anybody listened to this shit sober), an asshole move if ever there was one. Second, this ponderous muck sold millions of copies, proof positive that the hippie movement had reduced people's brains to soggy pencil shavings. Third, Ian Anderson's (main somgwriter/frontperson; Jethro Tull was a band name, like Blondie) brilliant contribution to rock was adding flute solos to his songs. Fourth, the band was known, at the time, as a heavy metal act (covered by Iron Maiden and beating out Metallica for a Grammy in that category), probably because they mixed sludgy blooze riffs in with their rancid olio of fey English folk, plodding chugga-boogie, madrigals, stoner freak-outs and ersatz classical - all of which is on display in this selection. Fifth, some sample lyrics: "The legends (worded in the ancient tribal hymn) lie cradled in the seagull's call/And all the promises they made are ground beneath the sadist's fall". Reads like some magnetic poetry jumble of Bob Dylan lyrics and Tolkein prose. Sixth: fucking flute sols? Are you goddamn shitting me?

I'm sorry, but if you can stomach even the 8-minute snippet included here without the benefit of a morphine drip, you should probably go join a cult or something. This is one of those cases where mere words are insufficient to convey the unbeleivable, unrelievable suckitude that is this "song". Is it the worst thing they ever did? Crap if I know. Arguing about which of Tull's songs is the most loathsome is like arguing about who's got the worst case of gonorrhea after a fraternity outing to a Tijuana brothel: not only is it beside the point, it actually adds to the sum total of human suffering by trivializing a painful experience. I did mention the flute solos, right?