I was listening to Cloud Nothings’ Here And Everywhere Else the other day – a very fine record incidentally – when I reached a Eureka! moment.
I don’t mean to say that I jumped out of the bath and hopped along the street. That sort of thing may have passed for normal behaviour in Ancient Greece, if not actively encouraged, but it is considered most unseemly amongst the Edwardian housing estates of modern day Leigh on Sea.
No, the Eureka! moment I refer to was the sudden realisation that whilst the current flock of noisy Indie rockers (eg. Cloud Nothings, Ty Segall) are making a terrific guitar-filled racket, none of the albums they are making are even half as good as Megadeth’s Rust In Peace.
Yes, that Megadeth. No, I’m not kidding.
It’s a strange situation. Whilst the aforementioned indie bands have an enthusiastic following of young and trendy types, I have a leather tie from 1986 that is more fashionable than Dave Mustaine’s band.
I can think of several friends who would happily jump around in the mosh pit at Cloud Nothings, but were I to suggest to them that we go and see Megadeth they would turn pale and recoil as if bitten by a serpent, or worse, asked to watch a re-run of Jim’ll Fix-it.
Even whilst Metallica is beginning to achieve mainstream recognition and acceptance, not least with a headline appearance at Glastonbury, Megadeth and their thrash metal contemporaries Slayer and Anthrax remain as popular as an accountant at a really good party.
So why is it that so many indie-kids who like noisy guitar-filled rock music enjoy Cloud Nothings but dislike Megadeth? Why hasn’t the indie crowd embraced Megadeth the way it has begun to with Metallica?
It can’t be entirely about the music. Indie rock does differ a little from heavy rock in approach, but it is still basically the same instruments plugged into the same amps. But as Noel Gallagher put it recently about watching his friend Lars Ulrich at Glastonbury, “I clapped Lars onstage, then, as much as I love him – I’ve known him for 20 years – it dawned on me after about thirty seconds “F–, it’s heavy metal”, so we went off to some acid house tent to relive our youth instead”.
So what puts Noel Gallagher off? What makes the difference between the two tribes? What keeps them apart? Is it simply the shouty vocals?
Let’s face it, there’s not a massive difference in clothing, perhaps a few more studs in the leather jackets, and whilst Mustaine’s hairstyle is somewhat stuck in the eighties compared to the trendy locks of Segall and Cloud Nothings, you can’t start criticising people for having bad haircuts in that decade…
Musically however, Megadeth is a far more complex beast. The chord changes are frequent and clever, there’s some extraordinarily fast play. Cloud Nothings and Ty Segall are noisy, but there’s little flashy playing. They build on punk and grunge rather than the likes of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Both sides appear to share a liking of Sabbath, however.
As for the lyrics, Dave Mustaine did show early promise, but rather blew it subsequently. He was, on occasion one of the more thoughtful political commentators in the heavy rock world – perhaps a low bar, admittedly, but nevertheless there was healthy cynicism in his early lyrics (“What do you mean I can’t be the President of the United States of America?…tell me something, it’s still “we, the people” right?” or “If there’s a new way / I’ll be the first in line / but it better work this time” – lyrics from Peace Sells….But Who’s Buying?).
This was unusual in heavy metal at the time, when the likes of Kiss sang about increasingly unlikely scenarios with girls and Iron Maiden explored Steve Harris’ reading list*. On Rust in Peace, Mustaine sang of the pointlessness of religious conflict in “Holy Wars…” – hardly a topic that has lost its relevance today.**
However, Hangar 18 is about UFOs, and other song titles would look odd on an indie band’s album: “Five Magics”, “Tornado of Souls”, “Dawn Patrol”, all a far cry from a wry indie look at relationships with girls…
So if you like your indie rock, but have never listened to Megadeth, let me encourage you to do so now. Let’s bring down those tribal barriers. You won’t miss more musings on how girls don’t seem to play ball, and you may even like the odd guitar solo. Rust in Peace is Megadeth’s best album***, and a landmark of the thrash metal genre. You never know, you might just be impressed.
Oh, and if you are a Megadeth fan, may I recommend you give the Cloud Nothings LP a spin? It’s good and noisy and you may even enjoy the lack of references to the forthcoming global apocalypse….
* Which appeared to include classic poetry (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner), mythology (Flight of Icarus), history (Alexander the Great), war stories (The Trooper, Aces High) and the romantic novels of Barbara Cartland (Charlotte the Harlot).
** But just as you think there stands if not an intellectual powerhouse, at least a chap who isn’t just singing about killer robots or black magic, he can make oafish remarks at will including in a 1988 Sounds interview some intolerant remarks about gays and the suggestion that he would put up “a Great Wall” across the Mexican border with the USA in 1988. One-off substance-addled remarks of a road-weary rocker? Well, no – in 2012 Mustaine suggested that Barak Obama staged the shooting in Aurora in order to push a gun control agenda. Given rock’s historical role with the political underground and counter-culture it’s still jarring to see a rocker with the political outlook of the Christian Right (with the exception of Ted Nugent).
*** It’s a close run thing between “Rust” and “Peace Sells”.
A new picture disc version of Rust In Peace (and several other Megadeth albums) was released on 10th November 2014 on Roadrunner Records
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