So What! The Good, the Mad, and the Ugly
Edited by Steffan Chirazi (Broadway Books)
by Brian Varney
This deluxe coffee-table volume (which, by the way, is heavier than the last few Metallica albums – sorry, folks, I had to say it) is an anthology of sorts, a collection of materials originally printed in Metallica’s fan newsletter (also entitled So What!) plus some unreleased stuff that presumably didn’t make the grade. Steffan Chirazi, the editor of this book, also runs the newsletter, so view this book as a greatest hits of the magazine collection if you like. You’ve got stories spanning the band’s whole career, from Burton to Trujillo, obvious fan-club stuff like “Metallica answers fans questions,” plus several informative and in-depth interviews with the band, the most interesting and informative of which took place in 1996 and, for the first time ever, included all four (then) members.
Because it’s a collection of smaller pieces rather than a single entity, So What! is not the sort of thing you read from cover to cover. Like any coffee table book, it’s meant to be picked at, ingested in small pieces when you have a few minutes of availability. However, if you do view the book as a whole, it serves some of the same purposes as a traditional biography by charting the band’s growth and progress, from the reproductions of early setlists – which include band comments and how much money they made that night (amounts like $4.25, so you know it’s the early days) – to more modern pieces covering what has become one of the biggest rock bands in the world. If you’re looking for a band biography, this is not the place to go. However, if you’re looking for a collection of informative, often intimate stories and interviews, and tons of band photos, So What! is for you.