Joel McIver - Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica
Comes a time when a band gets a bio written about them that looks and feels like a real book. UK super-scribe Joel McIver has done that, delivering a 366-page hardcover heavy with research, as well as three tipped-in photo sections spanning the lives of the boy wonders from high school yearbook shots on. What makes this book sing with authority, and move swiftly despite its scholarly intensity, is that each page is stuffed with factual bits gleaned from a myriad of close-to-band sources that surprisingly haven't spilled their bounty of beans until now. Friends, journalists, producers, family members, label honchos, and tons of rockers who knew the band on the way up and sideways... they're all here to corroborate and - mercilessly often - add nuggets you ain't never seen to the tale (great Cliff and Mustaine stuff here). Adding personality to the book, Joel, with his keen eye as ambivalent fan (ambivalence is something ingrained in the heart of almost every studious Metallica watcher: ever met one that likes every album?), applies intelligent critical drubbing where it's deserved, summarizing succinctly and with colour commentary from all manner of industry insider (plus the band themselves), the three very different debates surrounding the worthiness of Metallica (the black album), Load/Reload and finally St. Anger. Around those debates, McIver offers detailed analysis of the songs themselves, leaving no stone unturned in the telling of the band's meteoric story. The Napster stuff is boring, and the inclusion of a tiny discography (UK at that!) seems like a quick afterthought, but these are minor beefs with a book that reads and eats like a meal, one you'll be all too tempted to wolf down too quickly.
Under-Radio - Bad Heir Ways
Under-Radio's debut was a pretty cool eccentric guitary thing that threw the rulebook out like Steve Vai. But it was a bit projecty, instrumental and lacking in cohesion. No more, as brainchild-on-sugary-cereal Eric Zimmermann returns with a record that amplifies his many talents and engaging foibles through mostly heavy, heaving, sludgy conventional rock songs. Demonstrating that the debut was no fluke of complex arcane chicanery, the new one offers exotic BOC-like lyrics (singer Robbie Wyckoff even sounds like Bloom at times, for both better and worse) over songs laden with irony like Paul Gilbert, Vai, Queens Of The Stone Age and perhaps Dream Theater's old keyboardist Kevin Moore, if that Costa Rican were a submersible, psychedelic metalhead. And once more, Zimmermann's particular metal tunings and tonings lean toward Zeppelin and Soundgarden. But the best track is a mellow one, 1916 being a progressive folk thing like mellow I Love You or Liquid Jesus, Eric warning of something in the water off the Jersey shore. Points docked for lack of bass, and for the vocals being mixed a bit back.