FOOTAGE FETISHES: THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II: THE METAL YEARS

“Rock and roll’s about a lot more than music.”

Besides, when you get most of these bands’ backs up against the wall they tend to stray from the “doing it for the love of the music” party line. Perennial bottom feeders London tour in a camper, and their front man “Nadir D’Priest” (possibly the greatest hair band name ever) describes with gusto his dust-up with Chicago PD. Between them and Lizzy Borden, you’re almost ready to get the James Taylor albums out. The boys in Faster Pussycat are also completely unapologetic about their love of a good time, and describe the joys of sex with European women in great detail.

Truthfully, FP aren’t all that bad from a strictly rock and roll perspective. Their songs, like those of quite a few of their contemporaries, are occasionally pretty catchy. And even at times nowadays you could possibly find yourself singing along to them, but ultimately, they’re forgettable. “Retro Lunch” radio programs aside, nobody listens to ‘80s hair metal anymore. At the very least you’d have to go a long way to find an avowed Slaughter or Winger fan. Even so, the attitude presented by a number of the bands in “Decline” predates the current popular obsession with one-hit wonders and T&A over honest musicianship. So in that respect, they’re kind of visionary. I guess.

London, on the other hand, lament the fact that they’ve done little more than serve as a launching pad for other, more successful, musicians (Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe, to name one). And after hearing them play, it’s not too difficult to appreciate why this is the case: the lead singer sounds disturbingly like Ronnie James Dio (minus the cartoonish fantasy elements), and their music exemplifies the worst of the wailing vocal/chromatic scale guitar solo style of the day.

Some might also criticize London’s amusing anti-Communist stance. Personally, I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort, especially after watching their comically unsuccessful attempt to ignite a Soviet flag before the song “Russian Winter.” Like most metal posturing, it’s goofy rather than menacing – more Quiet Riot than Skrewdriver – and certainly no worse than anything released by Toby Keith or David Allan Coe.

We also meet Seduce, the self-proclaimed “biggest band in Detroit.” Probably the most erudite of the new bands showcased, the band members sagely discuss the all-or-nothing nature of their chosen profession. It’s too bad that their music, while technically competent, is essentially indistinguishable from that of a thousand other struggling metal groups, many of whom probably have better looks going for them.

Even the troglodyte members of London, however, come across as members of the Algonquin Round Table compared to the guys in Odin, a band that combines the attraction you get from name-dropping one of the heavies of the Norse pantheon with high-pitched, girlish vocals. Lead screecher Randy “O” gamely attempts to lend gravitas to the mandatory hot tub interview segment (watch for the priceless look of disappointment on the face of the groupie who ends up with the band’s portly bass player). Sadly for him, Spheeris keeps taking the audience back to their performance footage, highlighted by Randy’s onstage ensemble of scarves, ass-less chaps, and leopard skin Speedo.

“We don’t let a chick in the house unless she’s got a bag of groceries.”

One disturbingly pervasive theme among most of the bands represented is their disdain for the women of the metal scene. Interviews with members of those rare female bands (anyone remember Vixen?) notwithstanding, the lack of women not in various stages of undress speaks volumes about the prevailing misogynistic mindset (I’d draw a hip-hop analogy, but at least there are plenty of high profile women in rap).

Nowhere is this attitude more apparent than in the Gazzarri Dance Contest. Owner Bill Gazzarri – the “Godfather of Rock and Roll” – showcases bands (London, Odin) and ersatz beauty contests at his club, which members of the bands help judge. We also get to meet the reigning champion: a young lady hoping the title will help her in her “actressing.” The contest staggers along, looking like a nightmare fusion of the Ms. Fitness pageant and an MTV Spring Break beauty contest until Gazzarri, finally caving to the audience’s demands, allows the contest to continue as an impromptu strip-off. Quelle horreur.

What’s even more fascinating (trust me on this) is watching these same guys, who profess to digging “chicks with big tits,” as they blather about proper lipstick application techniques and pretending to be women while driving in order to fool other men. Freud might have called it “repressing.” I prefer to call it “sad.”

And for all their posturing, most of these guys would starve were it not for the support of their employed girlfriends. Spheeris pointedly asks the men in question if this sort of behavior, in fact, constitutes prostitution. Her inquiries are primarily met with nervous laughter and half-hearted scoffs, which makes a certain sense. I mean, not many of these guys are talented enough to be prostitutes.

Get the rest of the story in part three of FOOTAGE FETISHES: THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II: THE METAL YEARS>>>

Discuss Pete Vonder Haar’s “Footage Fetishes” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>




Posted on March 25, 2003 in Features by
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