Metal Rüles – Review

Metal Rüles

by Scott Hefflon

(Yet another of Scott’s Rants about the ’80s.)

After many failed attempts (especially punks, who’re notorious for playing badly and putting out far more comps than the world needs), someone has finally assembled a, shall we say, motley crew to pay proper homage to the puffy-haired, spandex-clad, and cowboy-booted rockers we all wanted to be/lusted after, who wrote tunes we all secretly played air guitar to, and still, to this day, provided what are some damn catchy songs with brilliant production, talented playing, and a flair for rebelliousness and absurdity we have yet to top (and for the most part, have stopped trying). Since the ’80s, most of us stopped teasing our hair, stopped showering (in some cases) and dressing to impress, stopped soloing like our wanking predecessors, stopped snorting so much blow we wanted to conquer the world dressed worse than prostitutes, looking goofier than Elton John, Liberace, and any other flaming fruit performer that comes to mind. Hell, for a while we wore flannel and smoked lots of weed again (forgetting in our stoned blur to read mind-expanding books like the hippies, but we did get pissed off at corporations and boycotted stuff by staying home and smoking more dope – hell, there was no war to protest as far as I can remember, so we hung out and complained until we lost interest in hearing ourselves whine and we passed out), but most didn’t solo for 20 fuckin’ minutes this time around (thankfully).

Then we got into the punk thing, which was as sloppy, ethical, dirty, and vital as classic rock probably was originally, but then our boys were given a shave and a haircut (Green Day! – fuck you, it’s a song parody), and we realized most of ’em woulda been lawyers if they’d been bright enough to make it through college (community college notwithstanding).

So we shuffled about, fascinated briefly by computer dorks pressing buttons while we flailed wildly about with the unsettling feeling that this was merely the disco revolution with more interesting drum beats and less sex, but at least these guys weren’t singing about girls, dammit! Whether it was glam, grunge, or punk (all monosyllabic so even a mongoloid could grunt it, not to mention buy into it), everyone was singin’ ’bout chicks. Lo-fi, indie rock, and the early college/alternative rock fit in here somewhere, but they weren’t so clearly defined as those already mentioned, and they too sang about chicks, but they puttered around a lot and kinda bored the shit outta me.

Some are still shootin’ horse and beatin’ a dead one, others can live with people apologizing when they run into someone in a slam pit (freshly-scrubbed kids out to change the world with their allowance and putting x’s on their hands, and others who watch their (and everyone else’s) PC P’s & Q’s so carefully, they don’t realize they’ve developed their own red tape, thus creating a stifling environment that is non-conducive to breaking free and being creative), others don’t mind shaking their groove thing to the continuous mix of a car commercial cuz it’s a way to meet chicks, yet others have combined trippy synths, Deadhead dancing, and glam’s outlandish attire and make-up and called themselves Goth, missing, of course, any irony and humor in their reaction. And many are getting nostalgic about ’80s metal. Glam metal as well as powermetal and thrash, but since the latter two were the butt ugly cousins the first time around, they’ll likely be the less-photogenic, slightly angrier bunch this time as well. And while I feel less hostility toward an ’80s resurgence than I did a few years ago – lyrics couldn’t get much more inane than they now often are, and as long as we’re looking for gimmicks to market back at ourselves, we might as well get some cool accessories and a bit of pussy outta this.

But that’s quite a cultural shift from the “disease and death” fear we’ve succumbed to after years of tolerating the War Against [insert anything fun here]. And that doesn’t even begin to attack (much less counteract) the hatred of success we’ve adopted, thus keeping ourselves close to poverty and suspicious of anything exhibiting Quality, even if it means our work ethic sucks and anyone noticed trying to be good at anything is labeled a sell-out.

The ’80s were a time of decadence and depravity (not as much as the ’70s and some of the ’60s, and we sure didn’t have the intelligent lyrics and soul, but our pants were tighter, our hair was bigger, and our solos were faster. We worked with what we had, OK?), and while many probably flock (and paid today’s inflated ticket prices) to see Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, few probably realize they too could take the gonzo path if they worked and worked and got so fuckin’ good at their craft, whatever it be, that “They” would allow them the freedom to be absolutely nuts. Hunter S. Thompson wasn’t a slacker. Practically no one who leaves any significant mark on a culture is. Fear of success and the constant back-biting criticism of the Internet and many a ‘zine (yeah, this one included to an extent) is no way to counteract the blah-blah-blah of major radio and major magazines, the paid mouthpieces for their sponsors and about as far from hip barometers as you can get.

Times have changed so much, and despite the fact that there are many, many an embarrassing memory we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy, the cultural climate is such that the ’90s could probably never be so shallow, so self-absorbed, so decadent, or have so much fuckin’ fun. The ’90s are far too conservative and judgmental, no matter how many tattoos and piercings “the kids” sport. In Flashback (not to be confused with Flashdance), Dennis Hopper, in one of his many post-hippie-mentality statements said, “The ’90s are gonna make the ’60s look like the ’50s.” Unfortunately, we didn’t live up to that. We’ve adapted more Family Values than we’d care to admit, and many of those who step outside of that norm, unfortunately, are merely irresponsible. They are not the leaders of their generation, they’re losers who can’t pull it together enough to fit in. In order to stand alone, you’d better be as good as everyone else and then better. Otherwise, you ain’t no better, you’re just fucked up. (This is not entirely true, but I’m sick of writing about it [for now] and have yet to say word one about the CD I’m supposed to be reviewing.)

The review…

Mëtal Rüles has the good graces to cover some not-so-obvious songs of the ’80s, and has a wide variety of bands cover them (punk, swing, and rockabilly predominantly). The bands assembled obviously share the same guilty pleasure of enjoying the great songwriting and goofy gimmicks that made the ’80s such a joke, such a wild farce, to begin with. Most cover their songs in a drastically untraditional way, giving an ironic wink to you, the fan, letting you know it’s OK to dig this stuff, man, just don’t take it (or anything, including yourself) too seriously. At least that’s what I think they’re saying. Unfortunately, there’s no contact info for the bands, nor original band credits (unless, like me, you know every goddamn name, much like other geeks can rattle off sports stats, who ran alongside who in what election, or quote from the Bible [or similar religious text] from memory – we all choose our area of obsession, kids, and one is no more valid than the other. We’re just more fun to invite to parties.), nor quotes from the cover bands on why they chose a certain song, but there’s a frighteningly familiar photo of a couple kids jamming in their parents’ basement, spitting fake blood, wearing fake leather fingerless gloves.

Opening with Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna to Take It” by Hairstorm84 (featuring members of Me First & The Gimme Gimmies), perhaps the epitome of what it was all about (and still is to this day, but with mohawks and ball caps instead of stringy hair, lingerie, and make-up application techniques that Tammy Bakker’d consider gaudy). While they didn’t do shit with the song aside from updating the monster production, the huge group shouts and blood-pumping beats still make you think the hippies are more than welcome to give peace a chance, we’d rather hop in our Chevelles, drink cheap beer, circle around and around and around “the square” scoopin’ on babes by continuously asking “‘Sup?” and wishing these glory daze could last forever. Nerf Herder are kind enough to remember Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly,” a great song made even greater by the apologetic lilt of Parry’s voice, not to mention the “Do, do, do, do” singing of the riff we all remember.

Mad Caddies choose Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild” infusing a mellow ska feel to the verses and rampaging madly during the chorus. If Skid Row were dead (wishful thinking, I know), they’d be rolling in their graves (probably with a groupie or two) without our having to dig the fuckers up and doing it ourselves. While, of course, the vocal line ain’t nearly as strong as Sebastian Bach’s was, at least your girlfriend won’t ignore you while having elaborate fantasies about the dreamy beanpole. The New Morty Show put a snappy swing on Poison’s “Unskinny Bop,” a song that pretty much had one to begin with. But not like this. Good show! And while ex-Jellyfishian Jason Falkner may have cred (with someone), his rather uninteresting take on the rather uninteresting Def Leppard song, “Photograph,” makes this the one track I’ll criticize merely to avoid gushing about everything here. I woulda preferred “Too Late For Love,” “Rock of Ages,” or even “Foolin'” to this. The Ataris dig deep into one of the most obvious bands, Mötley Crüe, and cover the classic “On With The Show,” a gem of a tune that woulda been overlooked by most. The singer even cracks on the same high notes Vince Neil did! While the song lags a bit in the middle (like where the solo shoulda gone), this songs might turn some folks on to MC’s pre-Shout days.

While I like the bangin’ piano Suckerpunch added to their cover of Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me,” that was a punk song structure to begin with (as much glam was – don’t get me started). Suckerpunch had the good graces (and ability) to include a solo (imitating CC is something any second-year guitarist has accomplished), but the song merely makes a joke of a song that already was a joke. Sweet Lixx (featuring members of Lagwagon and The Posies) do a really interesting take on the Scorpions’ “No One Like You” by speaking the verses, distorting the howls on the verse, and screwing with the tape speed at the end. Fun stuff. Ridel High give a surprise twist to Cinderella’s “Shake Me.” Not that the original was a scorcher, but this is downright lazy. The lethargic vocals and odd harmonies only draw attention to what an interesting cover this is. I’m not 100% sure I like it, but is sure is different.

Jumpin’ Jimes may or may not be the best swing band in the world, but they get total props for turning WASP’s “I Wanna Be Somebody” into the dazzling Vegas showtune it’s always had the potential to be. While some may’ve never gotten into WASP as much as other bands (shame, shame!), JJ gives Blackie Lawless’ throaty shriek a velvety croon, the fist-bangin’ beat a foot-tappin’, finger-snappin’ edge, and, while the solo screams all over the fretboard, it’s so drenched in reverb, the smoking riffs blend right in with the smoky room. An all around great cover of a great rebel tune. Buck Wild impress by going for Dokken’s “Alone Again,” a song even most metal bands have trouble covering properly (not that that stops them). They capturing the acoustic intro, Don’s thin, almost sissyish voice and great range, not to mention the delicate harmonies and the every nuance of a song absolutely brimming with them. Good solo, good dramatic building until the song drives into a brick wall and whispers “without you.” Great job, fellas.

The Tories give a wonderful pop/country twang to Ratt’s “Round & Round,” a song friends of mine have told me is their favorite song of all time no matter how many times I ask them not to. The chorus is almost psychedelic, lazily circling with soft harmonies and the lead voice of someone who can actually sing accompanied by a guitarist who’s good, knows it, and solos quietly throughout the entire damn song. In closing, a harder voice parodying Stephen Pearcy’s inimitable (thank god) lack of enunciation is priceless. The Marginal Prophets‘ slacker rap cover of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” is great, combining what sounds like a sample of the original riff, a chunky additional guitar, a fat (or phat, if you insist) kick drum thumpin’ the rear speakers, and a coupla decent rappers having some fun trading the absolutely inane (but enjoyable) lyrics back and forth. Mix in some ’70s-style funky guitar, a lot of homey-speak, and all the gimmicky hip hop stylin’s and you’ve got a memorable cover to a song you were just starting to dislodge from your memory. Wind down with Holy Hand Grenade‘s ’60s-style cover of the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane.” Add congas, “bop-shoo wop”s, wood blocks, Doorsy keyboards, and a freakin’ theremin to this rock standard and you’ve got metal like you’ve never heard it before. The bonus is Cinderella’s “Gypsy Road” by god-knows-who, resplendent with the original chords played in an almost Cult-esque way, and Keifer’s signature vocals run through the “punk snarl” processor. Again I’m reminded of how similar glam and punk can be.

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