Like many millennials, I happen to occupy a demographic that helped drive the nu-metal boom at the end of the 1990s. I never owned a pair of JNCOs, but I devoured every CD that vaguely reminded me of Korn's Follow the Leader
. While I'm embarrassed now to admit that I spent actual money on a Hed PE album (hey, I was young and made mistakes), I still have a soft spot for some of that ol' caustic, supersize pop-metal. I did, after all, pay to see Korn perform all of their self-titled debut
in the fall (man, was that dark). And if the Chicago Open Air
festival wasn't the same weekend as Pitchfork
I'd happily go see Disturbed
and Slipknot down at Toyota Park.
All this is to say that I recognize the many faults of nu-metal but still see its strengths—and I'll occasionally perk up when someone mentions the genre. So I dropped everything when Big Dipper
, a Brooklyn bear rapper who grew up in Chicago, hit me up to tell me about his nu-metal band, Commando. Dipper is just one cog in this supergroup of underground queer artists—it also includes Christeene, a genderqueer "drag terrorist" who's toured with Peaches; Krylon Superstar, who's half of San Francisco hip-hop duo Double Duchess; Van Jackson Weaver, a member of Oakland experimental group Makeunder; and Andy Meyerson and Travis Andrews, who perform in a classical chamber duo called the Living Earth Show.
Commando debuted yesterday with a self-titled EP, and it recalls all the brash musical tropes that made nu-metal popular in the first place—big guitars, aggressive screams, and rap fisticuffs. These musicians also intuitively understand what makes nu-metal silly, and they twist the genre's pathological angst and boilerplate alienation into bizarre, euphoric new shapes (with help from plenty of sexually explicit lyrics). "Open Wide!" (today's 12 O'Clock Track
) opens with Big Dipper eulogizing his dead cock; then snaggletoothed guitars kick in, and he instructs listeners to resurrect his member. If only Limp Bizkit
were so bold.