I imagine being a Metallica fan at this point is like being a junkie looking for a baggie of heroin in a pile of shit: you know the process is dismal and the end product isn't good for you, but you just want so badly to find the stuff that makes your existence worthwhile. But not caring much about Metallica gives a person a certain freedom--freedom to enjoy their story as mere folly and foible, a sidesplitter rich with irony, plus a killer sound track. Though I'd highly recommend it, you don't need to see Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's documentary Some Kind of Monster (reviewed this week in Section One)--in which the band airs two decades of skid-marked laundry with a smarmy, liver-spotted leech of a therapist--to know what I'm talking about. They started out not giving a fuck, hating the establishment, boozing it up; now, 20-odd years later, they've turned into the rehabbed rich suburbanites who used to piss them off. In a world full of legit injustices worth crying about, singer James Hetfield, who was better at his job before he started taking lessons for it, chooses to whine about his drinking problem, his panic attacks, his bandmates. Aww, poor little millionaire. The metal scene in the U.S., meanwhile, has slid so far downhill that the band now imitates its babies. Metallica's latest CD, St. Anger (Elektra), is a Frankenstein of Tool, Stone Temple Pilots, Korn, and a pale, shriveled shadow of what Metallica used to be, though inadvertently they do whip out some pretty interesting guitar noises a la the metallic flutter of Aphex Twin. And you can hear their inner acne-scarred teens struggling to express themselves whenever Hetfield's twangy billy-goat yell doesn't drown them out. No, it's not good, but it is interesting to hear them struggle to maintain a scrap of dignity. Godsmack opens. $55-$75. Friday, August 27 (sold-out), and Saturday, August 28, 7:30 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont; 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Crump.