Thursday, September 19, 2013

Song #359 of 9999 - Battery by Metallica

Song #359 of 9999

Title: Battery
Artist: Metallica
Year: 1986
Album: Master of Puppets

It's funny what time and circumstances can do to music, film, art, prose. We all understand that certain sounds, images, and phrases become dated and, if you choose to cloak your art in the style de jour, it may not stand the test of time. I heard an interview recently with Elmore Leonard, who talked about his book The Big Bounce. Apparently, "bounce" was a new slang word that emerged about the time he was writing the book and he thought it would catch on. It didn't, but the book is still good.

Then I think of movies like Titanic, which I honestly thought was good in 1997 as I sat watching the credits roll and listening to what I also thought was a beautiful original song. Of course, it's terrible, the song is terrible and I retrospectively wonder what kind of gas was being pumped into the theater. But the grosses indicate that lots of other people thought it was good too. So was it the time it was made or my own personal circumstances that caused me to be so delusional? (At least I knew Pretty Woman sucked when it came out while everyone else seemed to gush over it.) For example, I have the fondest memories of laughing like mad with my sister watching Woody Allen's Love and Death sometime around 1979 or 1980. But the last time I saw it, it seemed stupid.

Which brings me to Metallica's Master of Puppets. I chose "Battery" over the title track because it's the first thing I ever heard by the band and, at the time, it was startlingly original. I was primed for a record like this. My favorite band of the time, Rush, had gone all synthy; Yes had devolved into the equivalent of Mike and the Mechanics; and, well, there was just a lot of boring music in my record collection as I tried to stay loyal to my aging heroes. Here comes this band that plays fast, loud, technical music with all the time signatures changes a boy could ever need.

Today, it comes off almost as a parody of itself. I still like it (sort of) and I can certainly admire the musicianship and the production. But it's hard to imagine ever taking the lyrics seriously (smashing through the boundaries/lunacy has found me/cannot stop the battery) and I knew even in 1986 that James Hetfield's voice and singing style were monotonous. But my guess is that plenty of 17-year-old kids are discovering this album and getting really excited about it because their time and circumstances will allow it.

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