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Monday, July 19, 2004
Speaking of Klosterman, that Metallica-goes-into-therapy movie (i.e. Some Kind of Monster) kind of sucked. And by "sucked," I mean, "was not very enjoyable to watch," not "failed to acheive some kind of purpose," although more on that later.

Mainly it sucked in this particular way because it was 2 and a half hours, a fact that has been oddly left out of other reviews I've read. Miss Clap thought there was only really one redeeming sequence in there (the art sale), but I really could assemble a great 80-90 minutes of moments and context that, for me at least, would be fantastic documentary. But at 150 minutes, man, it really wore you down. And I don't think it's because I'm not a huge Metallica fan (although, contrary to what has been said in other reviews, I think it does help a good bit if you're at least a metal fan, if not actually a Metallica fan. Or, I don't know, care about metal somewhat. Prior interests helps, is what I'm saying), since I think it would have been way worse if I was a Metallica fan. It would have been even more painful.

I seriously left the theater considering a career change--to go into finance, or grad school for the professoriat, or something. It made it just seem like a horrible thing to be a successful musician, so crushing and stultifying and difficult to get anything done because so many people want things. And any tensions that are there in the band, any tensions, they become such a huge deal that they prevent you from doing what you love. For all that they refer to the band as a "family," it's like a family going into business together--it can work out really badly. Plus, they're not, you know, actually a family.[1]

I dunno, maybe this is my own hang-ups, but spending so much time in such a sterile studio, working on songs in this un-intimate environment, and being there for, what, 600 days, doing an album that's not really that complex (or, for my money, remotely as good or interesting as Load [which I really liked] or Metallica) sounds like a good definition of hell. For all that I like collective creations, I think there's a necessary balance between that and creating in your own private space, just following your own instincts where they lead. And sometimes you can do that with a band, but a lot of the time you can't. Plus, they didn't play any gigs! You saw how much that bugged them, but geez, I can't really go for a month without playing a gig without feeling really antsy.

And, of course, then it culminates in these really depressing gigs. I guess I don't know entirely why it was so depressing, although it might be connected to the shots where you couldn't even see the back of the goddamn stadium, which, again, sounds like hell. It just sounded like shit, too, and I do like Metallica. Plus how fucked up all that James stuff was, where, yes, he really did need to spend more time with his kids, but also, yes, he really needed to spend more than 4 hours in the studio. Yoing. This is why I build up songs for later in case something like that should happen...

I dunno. I guess I'm not doing a very good job of articulating exactly why it was so soul-crushingly depressing. But Jesus, it really was. Talking to someone recently, they mentioned how hard it is to be a rock star, because you're suddenly the reason for existing of this entire corporation, but you don't really have control over it unless you want to go all MacKaye. That's sort of what you're seeing here, but it's sort of not, since Metallica did manage to thrive for a while under just that structure.[2] But maybe--and I'm being a bit more generous than I really think is deserved here--a realization like that was kind of the point. For all the talk of this not being for metalheads because the movie laughs at Metallica, so do metalheads--or, at least, laugh at the present incarnation of Metallica. I certainly remember the fuss in true believer-land about Load's genre experimentation. So maybe all this crushing horrendousness is a sort of commentary on "corporate rock" as it were.

Then again, maybe it was just shitty editing.

At any rate, there were two fantastic sequences which I want to point out.

One was, of course, the one noted in other reviews, where, as part of the therapy, Lars was confronted by Dave Mustaine. This is one of the few places in the movie where a prior knowledge was useful, because, damn, it was kind of shocking just to see them talking to each other in that context, and when Dave just starts in on the way getting kicked out of the band has affected his life, it's incredibly powerful. I mean, granted, Dave is not the most stable person in the world--no one who's done that much freebasing can be, really. And sure, maybe he was playing to the cameras. But regardless, to see him talk about how much it's meant to his life not to have been in Metallica (and to have been, instead, in Megadeath, a band that sold a mere three [?] million records) is simultaneously absurd--something about walking down the street and hearing people say, "Woo, Metallica!" and it really bothering him--and absurdly logical, in a purely dramatic, even cliched, way. Of course it bothers him; of course it's had that big of an effect on his life. He got kicked out of fuckin' Metallica, dude, and shit how fucked up do you have to be to get kicked out of that band?

The other thing is what happens after they ask Ozzy's bassist, Robert Trujillo (who looks just disarmingly like a guy I knew in college named Gael) to join the band. Specifically, they show not only the introductory talk when they tell him that he's going to get a million dollar advance (!) against future profits (!), but they also show the meeting between the four band members (in beanbag chairs, if I'm recalling correctly, although maybe this is just wishful thinking) and their lawyers to hash out the new corporate agreement that incorporates Trujillo. The lawyers are clearly very uncomfortable having the cameras in the room, and, fuck, no wonder: for me, at least, it was absolutely shocking to see those kind of closely-guarded details on public display. I want to go back and watch it again and again and nail down exactly how they worked that shit out. Sounds like Trujillo was going to get a 5% voting stake that would then increase a bit per period until he was a full equity member. That gave him voting rights and, I'm assuming, his portion of profits, with none of the pre-existing projects collatoralized against his stake. Yoinks! It's sort of engaging me to write about it in isolation like this (I sure wish we knew more about how this sort of shit worked before we're actually in the situation ourselves), but in the context of the contentious studio sessions and the band maintaining purely professional relationships--which it seemed like would be the extent of Trujillo's participation in the "family"--it was deeply unsettling, sort of like watching people haggling over a corpse, somehow. Not to mention the part where Jason sends word that he wouldn't mind rejoining and they straight-up reject him...iee!

So it's maybe a DVD pick, but in the theaters, I dunno, skip it unless you want to discuss it right now. Uh, that's my review. Hey.

[1] There was a sorta-good essay on the band-dynamic subject that made this point in the This Is Pop collection, which I might comment on at some juncture.
[2] This makes me realize, I guess, just how nice it is to be Bjork or PJ Harvey or Beck or Steven Malkmus or someone like that--someone who's acheived both mid-level commercial success and critical success, so you can basically do whatever you want without people being too concerned about it making oodles of money, and have some influence without it being so powerful that people can reasonably ask you for things aside from your kind attention. Then again, at least 3 of the people I mention have been very good (or lucky, depending on your point of view) at managing their careers...