Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Too old for Slipknot...

Before I go off on a rant about music, if anyone has come here looking my script the links are in the post before this one and I'm going to try and get some links up on the sidebar too.

Anyway, after a few weeks of indecisiveness I recently bought the new Slipknot album which got me thinking about music and stuff. There will probably not be much film talk here so film people may want to skip this post. However, if you're a fan of The Shining you should definitely check out the music video I'm planning to add to the end of the post if I can find it.

When I was twenty or thereabouts I worked in a farm gang one summer with a bunch of misfits made up of asylum seekers from all over, a couple of drug dealers and a few penniless students like me who took the job by mistake. One such student was called Maurice, although that wasn't his real name, but that's what we called him (only I didn't cos I hate it when people have daft nicknames and they're like 'everyone calls me Bobbly-head cos I'm crazy' so usually insist on calling them by their real name at every opportunity - only I've forgotten Maurice's real name). So we're having a drink in the pub after a day weeding fields (which I was rubbish at) and we've just finished the most epic game of pool I've ever played (because we were both rubbish at it) and we start talking about music. I guess Maurice was about ten years older than I was and this was when I was properly into punk and metal and I'd literally go straight into town every Friday when we'd been paid and spend the lot on cds. So I was ranting about the importance of Slipknot, Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down and Maurice says 'You'll grow out of it eventually'. He was determined to make me grow out of that music right then and there. He made me a mix tape of plinky-plonky dance tunes figuring it would convert me and I would be saved. Strangely enough, that was his idea of grown-up music - a suggestion I have worryingly encountered on more than one occasion. It didn't work.

At that moment I decided no, I wouldn't grow out of it. It wasn't the scene I was interested in, it wasn't that the music was angry and the lyrics had rude words, it was the fact that the music that came out of the height of the nu-metal period was the first original art I'd experienced in my lifetime. Before Slipknot my favourite bands were (and still are) Velvet Underground, Iggy & The Stooges and The Residents (and a bit of Talking Heads, although my proper Talking Heads obsession came much later) - I was convinced I'd found the only bands I'd ever really like and no new band would convince me otherwise. Slipknot was one of the bands that did convince me otherwise, and yes, I am going to compare them to Velvet Underground, but more on that later. At the time I decided that I would remember this moment in the pub with Maurice telling me I'd grow out of my love of these bands and do whatever it took not to grow out of them just on principle. In case I ever bumped into him years later and then I could say 'Ha! I still like Slipknot even though I'm 84!'

You can see where this is going. I'm listening to the new Slipknot album and I'm thinking, 'this is all a bit silly really - I'm too old for this'. But I think it's them, not me.

I truly believe those first two albums have an avant-garde quality - the first album was raw and experimental, the second weird and pushing the boundaries. Both were and still are difficult to listen to and it was this that reminded me of Velvet Underground and those other bands I liked. It sounded fresh and challenging. And there were nine of them in the band. Nine people, all making noise, sometimes sounding like a band, sometimes just pure chaotic noise. Final point - they were the best band I ever saw live. I saw them at the Leeds Festival (I forget which year - 2000? 2001?). I went as close to the front as I could get before they came on. The guy next to me had a massive cut on his lip after being hit by a bottle during an earlier set. 'The first aid people said I should go home' he said, 'But I only came here for Slipknot'. They did not disappoint.

Then it started to go wrong. The masks kind of became a problem. I like masked bands, but I think you have to not be mega-famous to sustain it. The Network, Mushroomhead, The Residents - they all kept it up and it never did them any harm. I think it turned Slipknot into cartoon characters. They went the way of Kiss. By the time the second album came out twelve-year-olds were wearing Slipknot T-shirts. And there was me trying to compare them to Velvet Underground. I continued to defend them throughout my twenties, still making outlandish comparisons, despite the fact that I never bought the third album. I kind of lost interest in music for a while, and am still only slowly getting back into it.

So here I am listening to the fourth album and to be honest, I'm not completely disappointed. It sounds fine. I'm sure the kids are loving it. But it's not fresh anymore. The chaos and the noise have gone - they sound like a three-piece. A three-piece doing other people's songs. The one thing you could definitely say about Slipknot was that they didn't sound like anyone else. Now they do. I probably haven't given it enough of a listen, although I am trying, but it's not very exciting. I guess Maurice was half-right - I did get too old for Slipknot in the end. Half-right, because I also think Slipknot got too old me for me.

Rather than ending on that depressing note, let's celebrate what was great about Slipknot with one of the best music videos ever made:

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