Heard It on the X

There Is No Such Thing as Nü Metal, and It Has an X-Tremely Funny Face

Or how about Finger Eleven, whose name must be a reference to some sort of creepy extra finger that only truly creepy people have. Their song "Drag You Down" has the NIN midtempo march of the slugs thingy down pat. The lyrics sound like stuff Trent Reznor writes down in the middle of the night to help him remember his dreams better: "Teething," "It's biting," "I'm bleeding." And the video itself, much like Spineshank's and a whole lot by other nü-by bands, takes place in one of those haunted machine shops that evoke NAFTA more than they evoke some blasted postapocalyptic vision of decay. Blame it on Einstürzende Neubauten, or maybe Janet Jackson. Or Helmet, whose prescient 1992 "Unsung" video introduced warehouse space, lockstepped dude-friendly Big Black riffs, skater shorts, and Dischordian X-estential vagueness to a generation of future Finger Elevens whose previous delvings into metal consisted of their big sister's Ratt collection. Anyway, Finger Eleven's bass player, like most bass players, has one of the lamest hairdos on earth. And the guitarist is still wearing X-tremely huge pants which everyone will agree are like so over.

Godsmack's "Voodoo" video has more on the ball. Its voodoo beat is lame, and the song itself is very slow and un-metal; in a way, it's sort of a second-rate approximation of one of those dark doomsday folk bands banging drums over in Europe. But the video has everything you need: cool belt buckles, a promising Viking intro, naked guys running through the woods, a moss-covered drum kit, Medusa, top hats, bonfires, zombies on bicycles, and a wolf that jumps out of the singer's stomach. And the singer looks like Ed Grimly! Before I saw this one, I'd written Godsmack off as just another band with bad dye-jobs, bad tattoos, and throbbing neck veins. Kinda like Creed—only swarthier, and less in touch with their inner, upper, lower, and higher godhead.

And speaking of Godhead, their karaoke-level aggro-industrial version of "Eleanor Rigby" isn't even as good as Orgy's cover of "Blue Monday." Godhead's singer tries desperately for a Mephisto/Nosferatu look as he wanders the streets aimlessly. Disturbed do a much better job with their same-sounding techno-hard-rock version of Tears for Fears' "Shout," even if I can't stand their Mussolini monkey-man singer (though I do acknowledge that he's a worthy heir to Udo-of-Kraut-leatherboy-outfit Accept's homoerotic fascist throne).

Horned beatnik goth geniuses Mudvayne
photo: Greg Watermann
Horned beatnik goth geniuses Mudvayne

In brief: Second Coming's "Soft" might not technically be nü metal, cuz they have excellent beards and rockabilly hair plus a beat that shuffles with a satisfying kerchunka-clunk that might even be danceable! (Nü-bys are usually too miserable and sluggish to dance.) I think they might be X-ian, but the way the singer screams, "Don't touch my friends!" in this performance vid had me screaming "Cool!" Mudvayne's "Pig" is Slipknot-inspired lunacy. The music is almost beside the point cuz the band has horns, which is all you need to know. (Check the spoken-word outro on their other vid, with the little kid burying her granny in the sand! Dude, it's beatnik goth genius!) Much to the dismay of my loved ones, I can't wait for Slipknot's new album, Iowa, which could very well prove to be their Nebraska. What can I say, three drummers and a singer who can do the tortured-boy croon as good as the punk-rock growl is cool by me. His growling is worthy of Ian MacKaye back in the day, or even Ray from Youth of Today. (Speaking of homoeroticism, Ray's current band, Shelter, has a new vid where he plays a butch cop, and it makes me wonder how straight-edge punk got written out of the queer-culture history books—abstinence, sobriety, and slamming could make for some awfully steamy all-ages shows.)

Speaking of homoeroticism yet again, you have to see the vid for "I'm a Cloud" by Boy Hits Car. It starts with a group hug between band members, features Frippertronic geetar breaks, Doorsian psychodrama, and a scary Treat Williams-as-Berger-in-Hair lead singer in a Nehru jacket who out of nowhere screams, "They tried to fuck me from behind!" Yowza! As nü metal begins its death march, things finally get interesting!

But then you get Grand Theft Audio's "Stoopid Ass,"a promo clip for the homoerotic flick Dude, Where's My Car?, and musically an incomprehensible hybrid of Fatboy Slim, the Stereo M.C.'s, and Sham 69. (Which sounds groovy, I'll admit, but just ends up being noisy and sad and something else for me to somehow blame Beck for.) Or Cold's "End of the World," where some guy who looks like Moby's older, unhealthier brother sings a lament about how fake and plastic everyone at the strip club he hangs out at is, in that fake, plastic SoCal-by-way-of-Bombay-or-Babylon Matchbox 20 "smooth" diction that's as wack as it is weird.

The saving grace for a lot of these pierced, pissed stylists is how they often let their inner Savage Garden shine through the mud. Making you wonder if they somehow ended up in the wrong band or something. Professional Murder Music and Stabbing Westward have serious Ultravox tendencies yearning to break free. Fuel's "Bad Day" vid, with its mundane litany of "spilled her coffee and broke a shoelace" moments, wouldn't be out of place on the country channel or on a Goo Goo Dolls album.

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