If You Like...Metallica (Book Review)
Released: 2012, Backbeat Books
For about 20 years (1988-2008) I had pretty much given up on Metallica. After AND JUSTICE FOR ALL I felt they got bogged down in arena rock, covers albums, symphonic albums, self-indulgent grunge albums and poorly produced garage rock albums. Of course, my opinion is in the extreme minority as the band catapulted to the stratosphere to become one of the most influential, most popular, best-selling bands of all time. With the resultant fame there came all the peripheral products: DVD’s, a movie and of course books. Lots of books. There are photo books, academic books, historical books and several biographies. I felt it was high time that we got caught up on some of the many Metallica books that have been published in the past decade or so. This month I am featuring and reviewing six titles about Metallica and a bonus book about the origins of Bay-area thrash. They are (listed by authors last name)
-Daniels: Metallica-The Early Years (2012)
-Halfin: Metallica (2006)
-Irwin (ed.) Metallica And Philosophy (2007)
-McIver: And Justice For All (2004)
-McIver: To Live Is To Die (2009)
-McPadden: If You Like Metallica (2012)
and the bonus book, Oimoen/Lew: Murder In The Front Row (2012)
Please feel free to read and enjoy all the book reviews for Metallica Month. This list is by no means comprehensive there are many more books about Metallica for you to enjoy.
Author, Mike McPadden seems to be one cool dude. He is one of the main guys for something on the internet called Mr. Skin which is apparently a web-site dedicated to showing naked celebrities. (In case my wife is reading this review I have never heard of Mr. Skin, have never gone to Mr. Skin and assume the website is completely inappropriate and demeaning to women everywhere…wink, wink.) On a serious note, aside for his professional enthusiasm for the unclad famous female form, McPadden is a bit of a Metal-head…but deep down aren’t we all? He has written a book about Metallica called IF YOU LIKE METALLICA…
The ‘If You Like…” series of books was developed by Backbeat Books and the Hal Leonard Publishing group. It’s a series of pop culture books and there are many titles so far such as, ‘If You Like…The Beatles, The Sopranos, The Terminator, Monty Python etc. and the latest and greatest title in the series is about Metallica. The concept for the series is elegant in it’s simplicity. Essentially the author takes all the pop cultural references, influences, side-projects, media and trivia bits and pieces (past and present) on the subject (band, movie, TV show etc) at hand and spins out a book. It’s pretty cool. It’s like Metallica 101 and a handy reference guide to boot. It’s a nice little paperback, 209 pages and a handful of black and white pictures. It is well presented, easy to read with lots of little side-bars in grayscale/shade boxes.
The book is laid out into a number of simple sections. Bands that influenced Metallica, bands that were contemporaries of Metallica in the early days, the rise of thrash in conjunction with Metallica, you get the idea. There is a write-up for each band talking about history, influence, triva, lots of great info. Chapter Four touches on punk, hardcore and industrial music, Chapter Six asserts that Metallica created alt. Metal...sad but true... and describes any number of bands that have risen it's wake. There is a nice chapter about doom and stoner rock and a decent overview of Metallica side-projects. There are great lists about Metallica books, movies, tribute albums, films and countless pop-culture references to the band. There are lists of things to check out, and some interesting analysis. My favourite is the list, '10 Reasons Why Metallica Collaborating With Lou Reed Makes Perfect Sense'. Spanning six pages the list is very well-done and could give the people who automatically said 'No!' to such a collaboration, something to think about. McPadden really loves Metallica...even Lou Reed stuff and days so in his intro, so it makes sense that he enthusiastically tackles this project.
It’s important to remember that this is not supposed to be the definitive history or technical analysis of Metallica. If you want to know the name of Lars Ulrich’s drum-tech in 1991, what kind of battery Kirk uses in his wireless system, what Trujillo had for breakfast last Tuesday, or how many polar bears Hetfield shot in Siberia, you might have to go elsewhere. If you are a super die-hard Metallica fan there might not be that much new information here for you. Do we really need another Metallica book? Probably not. That’s the one potentially fatal flaw of these quickie, casual, pop-culture series of books. When books like this simply regurgitate existing information, the book will live or die based on the strength of the presentation and/or by the skill of the author.
Fortunately, McPadden is enormously entertaining and a wordsmith par excellence. His funny and fun writing style make this book, which could have been pretty dull or useless to a long-time, die-hard Metallica fan, a real treat. His quirky prose and witty style (made-up words and all) reminds me a lot of Canadian journalist, Martin Popoff. For example, is ‘heaviosity’ even a word? I don’t think so, but we all know what he means when McPadden says, (on p.4) “From Sabbath, then, came all ensuing heaviosity and metallicism.” That sentence just sounds damn cool. The added bonus that makes this book worthwhile is that it brings exposure to all the other cultural elements that influenced the band and have been influenced by the band. It delights me to think that maybe someone didn’t know that Trujillo was in Suicidal Tendencies before Metallica and then he or she goes and buys an ST album, because of this book, because if you like…. Speaking of Trujillo, it's nice to see him on the cover. It won't be long before he eclipses Newsted as the bands longest serving bassist, but still after nine years some still see him as 'the new guy', even though he has been in the band way longer than Burton!
This book was written by a fan, for the fans and for everyone else who wants to be (or has been) dragged into the vortex of Metallicas’ cultural-gravitation pull…by the sheer weight of the bands own heaviosity, naturally. Watch for McPadden’s next book about Metal in the Movies.