From time to time in the past we’ve exchanged e-mails with The Austerity Program‘s Justin Foley, and the dude’s e-mails were so goddamn funny (not to mention smart) that we finally asked him to write for us. Hopefully Justin’s contributions to MetalSucks will become a regular, or at least semi-regular, occurrence. Enjoy!


“O Confusion! Cruel mistress – thou who would lead thine servants to slaughter like a lamb also gets led (Ed – to slaughter). Cruel! Innocent lambs, gently editing metal blogs, knowing not of your unkind plans nor the wicked scroll of fate.” Henry VI, Act 4

Like many of you jokers, I was struck with a growing sadness as I read the nonsense that that nice Wingerschmidt boy posted the other day. Sadness because it really missed the main point about the Voice’s article –a refreshingly pure distillation of concentrated bullshit. Fortunately, I didn’t miss it and neither did many of those who commented. But just in case there’s any doubt, let me tell you why that Voice writer has it so, so wrong.

First thing’s first: the article’s awfulness was not necessarily due to how terribly it was written. But the writing was TERRIBLE. I haven’t read the whole article start to finish in one sitting because I don’t think I can. I just get stuck in these unending sentences that can’t make a point but keep offering up Level 2 SAT words as burnt offerings. Holy crap:

“Grounding deceptively ecstatic music in a film larded with Americana pablum but hailed repeatedly as culturally significant is not only indicative of the fatal atrophy of “popular imagination,” it also shows consumers’ unwillingness to accept the authentic, reaching for the numbing reality of the familiar, over and over again”

The guy wrote this for real. Maybe this is one of those meta-jokes where he is murdering prose to make some ironic statement against what he’s saying. It’s almost gotta be; he’s complaining that music is convoluted and insincere by using language that’s convoluted and insincere. But really… I just think the guy’s a crappy writer. And there’s a bigger problem with the point I think he’s trying to make.

(I freely admit that I’m not succinct, but I look like James M. Cain compared to this fellow. Did the Voice get rid of copy editors with Christgau and UniWatch? I liked UniWatch.)

This clown seems to say that these bands make fake metal because they don’t connect emotionally. Who does? Why, bands that sing about things like folklore, swords and sorcery of course. Bands like Slough Feg – I’ve got a record of theirs that’s a concept album about miner space dogs from a late 70s sci-fi role-playing game. An entire record about this, made by human adults. Really.

And then there’s all the stuff about Trans Am. I also have that record Surrender to the Night, and it sucks. I saw them play once and knew things didn’t look good when the bassist hit the stage with shiny silver pants, a goofy haircut intended to be noticed and big sunglasses. Their irony-soaked garbage was the first of many, many staring-at-themselves-smirking-in-the-mirror bands I’ve had to endure and part of me will always blame them for all of it.

See, the author of this wretched piece wants to dismiss music he does not understand as being ‘fake.’ He expects and values vapid irony (Trans Am), cliché (Slough Feg) or stasis (AC/DC). When these expectations aren’t met, he gives a wholesale dismissal – it’s all “overthought” and lacking emotional connection.

Of course he’s wrong. The genuine enthusiasm that people have for each of the bands that he pulls off his “Metal To Be Reviewed” pile means – what – in his world? I’ve seen all of these bands play (with the exception for Explosions in the Sky) and each of them leaped into the performance, creating moments of lasting intensity for the band and the people there to see them. It’s a reward far different than you get from suffering through a band’s “lack of emotional investment.” We’re supposed to prefer Trans Am over that? What?

All this smells like the wordy complaints of someone who doesn’t like to be challenged by his music. This is exactly the opposite of what I like. The most compelling records for me that fall into the “metal”category are things that sparked extreme emotion when I first heard them: they made me laugh in amazement/wonder, they scared the shit out of me, they genuinely jarred my sense of reality. I will gladly pass on the next hundred sorcerer metal records just to hear something that blows me away like the verse riff in Torche’s “Gernades” or the final two minutes of “Hym” by Isis. I could not care less that none of these meets anyone’s definition of real, actual, honest, exactly-what-I-was-expecting “Metal.” In fact, I actually probably prefer it – I was confronted with music that confounded my expectations.

All of which brings us to the dumbest part of this scree – his total confusion by Pelican. “Trans Am could do more in 3 and a half minutes than these guys have done in 5 records.” Please. I’ll be honest – I’m friends with Pelican and consider that band to be fellow travelers. I have seen them play to a nearly empty room, be genuinely friendly to psychotically enthusiastic fans at the merch table, act generous with their money and time on the road and, most importantly, pour themselves – absolutely – into the music they’re making. No one who has watched Pelican play a show when they are on (figuring that they have a bad night every now and then) can doubt their sincerity. To giddily watch their dedication and involvement and then see it mistaken for (let me go pull another lousy quote) “feigning the emotion” is, frankly, perverse. When it’s written by someone who says that shiny pants and wolf warriors from another dimension are the real deal, well …

You want to throw big words around because you don’t like a couple of bands? Whatever; everyone has an opinion. Go love a crappy Trans Am record; it’s your $15. But don’t think you’re right calling into question the motivation or intelligence of bands making music that doesn’t click with your worthless idea of “true” metal. Some folks want to do more than rehash Iron Maiden covers when they plug into big amps. If this means they have to suffer being the target of this sorry, empty whining it’s too bad but I’ll bet they can handle it. The rewards of passionately making lasting music of value are surely worth it.

(Re: the comments – Can everyone just all agree right now to stop using the term “hipster”? After a half-decade of overuse it now officially means absolutely nothing. Only slightly behind that is the entire world hating Williamsburg, probably because they all want to live there. Please, I beg all of you to be at least a tiny bit creative in your hate of something. Make fun of someone’s pants, like I did.) (Twice.)


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