Thursday, June 7, 2007

Metallica - Metallica (aka Black Album) / Prince - The Black Album

There are two obvious follow-ups to last week's post on The Beatles: Prince's The Black Album and Metallica's eponymous black album.

As a political statement, Prince's album is compelling; as an example of design, however, it epitomizes the difference between "simple" and "boring." Like the music on The Black Album, the cover was a good idea that didn't quite come together.

Metallica succeeded where Prince failed. The cover is simple, it reveals layers of design that are not apparent at first glance, and its meaning is open to interpretation. Additionally, by alluding to the censored version of Spinal Tap's Smell the Glove album, it demonstrates a sense of humor and self-mockery that Metallica lost by the late '90s.

I thought the snake on the cover was a bit cheesy until I learned that it's taken from the Gadsden flag (i.e., the "Don't Tread on Me" flag). The snake was derived from a comment made by Benjamin Franklin that the colonists send rattlesnakes to England as thanks for the English criminals who were sent to America. One thing I always liked about Metallica is their willingness to make their listeners think.

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Blogger bob_vinyl said...

The use of the Gadsden flag isn't really all that cool, because it refers to "Don't Tread on Me" on the album which was a moronic support of the US position during the 1991 Gulf War. I'm not making a case against the war itself here, just Metallica's blind faith in their country which seems to have come out of nowhere. I actually never found Metallica to be a particularly intellectual band. They aren't the dumbest band on the planet, but their messages are generally simple-minded even when they're correct.

June 7, 2007 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

It's okay, not as corny as And justice for all, but nothing special.

June 7, 2007 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger taotechuck said...

Reading the lyrics to "Don't Tread on Me," I don't see support for the Gulf war as an obvious interpretation, (although it is possible). What compels you to make a definitive statement that the song is about that subject?

June 7, 2007 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

If I remember correctly, they said it and denied it later, but I hated Metallica at the time, so I could be jaded. They're still not very thoughtful.

June 7, 2007 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger taotechuck said...

Sure, Metallica was simple-minded, but considering what their peers were singing about in the late 80's, they were like rocket scientists. Of course, even the best of the bunch (i.e., Metallica and Slayer) gave us teen angst music at its worst: anger run amok with a complete inability to find any good in the world.

This was actually a point I wanted to mention in my post: Whereas the White Album symbolizes the inclusion of all colors in the spectrum, Metallica symbolizes the (almost) complete absence of light. The only light on the cover literally illuminates the band's own name and an image of war. Fitting for a band that gave us 20 years of nihilistic bullshit.

June 7, 2007 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"It's like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none, none more black."

Every time I watch Spinal Tap it gets funnier and funnier, it has moved to the top of the list of best music related movies beating out Wayne's World. Anyway, I really liked Metallica's "Black Album" despite it being poorly received by fans. I don't think it is the caliber of "Ride the Lightning" and "Master of Puppets" but it is definitely up there.

June 7, 2007 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Well, of course I have to be the lone wolf to talk about Prince, and I think I mentioned this week, but the Black Album cover was no real statement other than to fuck WB over for releasing an album Prince didn't want released to begin with. This really is nothing more than demos that leaked, with the only finished piece being "When 2 R In Love" that ended up on Lovesexy.

Prince had a cover design for this album, but because he was infiltrated and the tapes made it out into the public without his consent, he adamantly blackened the original cover. I know he was infuriated this material ever escaped. WB released this as The Black Album during their feud when he became the androgyny symbol and wrote "Slave" on his face. I believe WB put it out the recoup some losses when nobody cared about Prince.

He might as well have called this album Controversy 2

June 7, 2007 at 10:02 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Ray, as I understand it, the album was pretty much ready to go when he (or whoever) shelved it. I think that's what makes it so interesting. Lots of projects have been aborted at various stages, but few get all the way to the final stages like that when at artist's at the top of his game.

June 7, 2007 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger dschalek said...

It's still a crappy album.

June 8, 2007 at 6:08 PM  

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