I’m just going to say this up front: Metallica: Some Kind of Monster is funnier than Spinal Tap. Holy shit, I haven’t had a good laugh like that in a long time. See, in Spinal Tap the theme was the same–once dominant rock band falls from grace and does their damndist to get “it” back–but the three principals are basically the same character. Well, maybe not exactly the same, but cut from the same cloth. David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls are all essentially caricatures of burnt out Brit rockers who are too dumb to realize how dumb they are. What sets Metallica the movie, and more specifically, Metallica the band, apart is that the three principals, Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet, are all completely moronic in their own, unique ways. Like, really unique, in relation to each other. Yet, as different as the three are, their dumbness glues them to each other. Remember the St. Hibbins quip about there being a “very fine line between genius and stupid?” Well, The Great Wall of China couldn’t stop Metallica’s stupid from flooding their genius. Think about it.

I hope that true fans of Metallica are shocked by Some Kind of Monster. Shocked to see what bourgeois babies their heroes have become. Yes, up front I will admit that, as a musician and a man who doesn’t make that much money (compared to these louts at any rate), I am very jealous of their success and their money. More so the money than the success. I would love to own over 500 guitars. I would love to go bear hunting in Russia for two weeks. I would love to own a giant ranch in Marin County. I would love to auction off a Basquiat for over $5 million dollars (in perhaps the most inexplicable scene in the film, Lars Ulrich, art collector, auctions off a dozen or so paintings he has collected). I would love to be able to pay a therapist $40,000 a month to help me. More than anything though, I would love to be able to work all day long playing music. To me, that is the dream of all dreams. A dream, which Metallica has achieved, and they are still fucking miserable, petty and insecure. Stupid humans…

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster deals with the recording of their latest album, St. Anger. Longtime Cliff Burton replacement bassist Jason Newsted has left the band after 14 years, finally coming to terms with the fact that the other guys care more about surfing and ballet recitals and art (again… inexplicable!) and hot rods than they do about music. At first, the core three members are angry at Jason, but then they realize that they in fact might have a problem. Maybe Metallica is deteriorating (though after hearing a few cuts off of their last couple records, it is safe to say that there is no way that Metallica could deteriorate any further). Enter Phil Towle. Phil is a therapist who specializes in dealing with professional athletes and their ilk; multimillionaire ego-monsters who still have to work together as a team. Phil, in my mind, is also a complete fraud. At least that is how the filmmakers decided to portray him. He also wears more ridiculous sweaters than Bill Cosby. This Phil guy gets so caught up and into the idea of working with a rock band (sadly, you can’t really call Metallica metal any more) that he starts to think he’s in the band. During one ultra funny part, after Phil has started writing lyrics for them, Lars asks Phil, “Are you going to play drums today. It’s the only thing you haven’t done.” James too, is worried that Phil thinks he is now part of the band and is going to go on tour with them. Oddly enough, the Phil situation seems to be what finally reunites and focuses the three main members of Metallica. Phil of course, who is earning half a million dollars yearly from the band (they use him for all three years that the documentary covers), pulls out every three-dollar pop psychology trick in the book to try and keep his job. It’s pretty gross to watch how powerless and, well, stupid, Metallica appears in the face of a monster like Phil.

Also worth mentioning is the sycophantic yes man and long time producer Bob Rock. Since they are without a bass player, Bob sits in for the early recording sessions. He also becomes, like Phil, a defacto member of Metallica. Although, Bob, unlike Phil, is very quick to always point out that the band is really just Lars, James and Kirk. However, Bob of course attends all the band therapy sessions and seems depressed when they actually do find a new bass player. By the end of the film, Bob’s very presence was making me ill. Even though most of what the band was writing and recording was dog shit, Bob keeps telling them, “That was great!” At one point he instructs Lars to “Yell ‘Fuck’ as loud as you can.” Brilliant producer, huh? Funny, he actually has the same hair cut as Ian Faith, Spinal Tap’s manager. Plays pretty much the same role, too. One of the very best parts of the film is when Lars’s father shows up to listen to what they’ve been recording with Bob. After Lars plays pops a track, the father says, “I would delete it.” And he was absolutely right. Of course, we are talking about a group of men that have lost their integrity, vision and aesthetic so long ago I shouldn’t have been surprised that they thought the crap Lars played for his dad was not only a good song, but that it should open up the album.

Of equally great note is the appearance of Dave Mustaine, one of the founding members of Metallica, who during a therapy session with Lars complains that his life has been hell for the last fifteen years. Seems that in his mind because he got kicked out of the band, everyone hates him. People on the street look at him, flash the devil sign and yell “Metallica, dude!” because they hate him (next time I see Mustaine, that is exactly what I am doing). He says that being “number two” sucks. Where he gets the idea that Megadeth is some how the number two metal band is beyond me, but what he fails to realize is that the fifteen million records his crappy band has amazingly managed to sell is a direct result of the fact that he was in Metallica [Ed Note: More proof that God is dead/an asshole: To date, The Minutemen have sold less than 100,000 records]. Lars, naturally, is so self-obsessed that he can’t even understand what Dave is talking about. Go see this movie just for Mustaine.

So yeah, for the two hours and twenty minutes that Some Kind of Monster runs, Lars is just as annoying and as vapid as he appears in interviews. Hetfield, while showing flashes of intelligence, is really just the world’s luckiest piece of trailer trash who now seems to worship Jesse James from Monster Garage more than he does Satan. Which, for a heavy metal guy is bad news. I mean, a shiny-chrome nazi helmet while driving around in your little million dollar go cart? Grow the fuck up, dork. And stop covering every goddamn thing you own in flames! Funniest to me was Kirk. What a dipshit! I mean he bitches and moans throughout the whole thing that he has had no creative input for the last decade and a half. But this record is to be different; they let Kirk write lyrics. His contribution? “My lifestyle determines my deathstyle.” Deep, dude. Eventually they draft Robert Trullijo of Suicidal Tenancies/Infectious Grooves fame to play bass. During his audition they ask him what song he wants to play and he suggests “Battery,” the opening track on arguably their greatest record, “Master of Puppets.” Actaully, in some circles Master of Puppets is considered to be the greatest record, period. Which begs the question, “Why don’t they just sit around all day playing old songs off their first three (OK, fine, four) records?” We never learn why. Anyhow, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster is a really funny documentary that details the antics of the band that has sold more records than anybody. Yes, anybody. More than the Beatles or Michael Jackson or Elvis. It couldn’t have happened to three nicer morons. Actually, scratch “nicer.” To quote the Dude from The Big Lebowski, “Buncha assholes.”

Special Ruthless Ratings:

  • Could Giovanni Ribisi play Lars Ulrich: Yes. I think they are brothers.
  • Who’s dumber: Tough one
  • Come on, who’s dumber, Lars or Giovanni: Kirk
  • So, how does the new album sound: Bad
  • Anything else: Me and Schultz used to joke that bands like Metallica or the Red Hot Chili Peppers should stop writing songs that attempt to ape what they were singing about before they made it to the highest tax bracket, and write shit about what their lives are like now; “My Portfolio Isn’t Diversified Enough” “My Real Estate Agent Screwed Me Out Of Two Points” “God Damn I Have More Money Than I Know What To Do With” “I’ve Fucked More Groupies Than I Have Close Friends,” etc. Metallica sort of does that here, writing a song about their Napster debacle where they claim they have to stand by their principles. Schultz and I were wrong; it sucked, too.
  • Why do you use so many semi-colons: Shut up


(12 hours after I posted the above.)

Yeah, so already I feel guilty about leaving a big part of the film out and only insulting the band’s intelligence. Cause there was this really cool thing they did… Metallica is asked to do this Clear Channel promo where a fan will get $50,000. A fan of the radio station, not of Metallica. So, they are recording it and they all think it is bullshit and stuff like this happens:

Lars: This is Lars from Metallica and I’m going to shove $50,000 up your ass.
James: One by one.

Anyway, they balk about having to do it and their manager explains that Clear Channel is the biggest radio station in the country now, and if they don’t do the promo, Clear Channel will not promote their new album in a year when it comes out. This upsets the band greatly and they write a song about it with the line, “I’ll wash your back or you’ll stab mine. Get in bed with your own kind.” I don’t think the song makes the album (they recorded 30 songs and only kept 11) but it was nice to see that some of their old school “fuck you!” attitude is still in place. Though, I’m sure they did the promo, anyway. Also, the fan appreciation day they have, where fans get to hang out and jam with the band is way, way cool. Even though Metallica’s last five albums are dog shit.