Anthrax reissues its heyday recordings, Bright Eyes reinvents holiday jingles, and Dwight Yoakam takes us back to the ‘80s
But recently, with the decline of thrashmetal dystopia, Anthrax has begun to atrophy. Ever since a guest spot on Married With Children , their only gigs have included appearances on VH1’s ad nauseam “best of” programs and a reunion with Public Enemy at the Hip-Hop Awards. The band almost changed its name to “Basket of Puppies” after the anthrax scare. And the only real gossip has focused on the inappropriateness of that thing growing off of guitarist Scott Ian’s chin. These guys definitely need a stellar gig.
Luckily the release of their “No Hit Wonders” should thraxinate any metalgeek who’s been looking for an excuse to head bang and destroy something of value. This double-album proffers only the best of the best, from the cello concerto turned speed-riff “Be All, End All” to the angry, claustrophobic “In My World.” Speed’s the key with Anthrax: if it ain’t fast, it ain’t right. Drummer Charlie Benante’s primeval élan holds the band together, so we can hear what Metal Gods should sound like—and it isn’t Creed.
The Beatles made history singing “Let it be.” Anthrax, on the other hand, sings “Destroyer of lives!” And that speaks to my generation.
There are nuances on the album that hint at Bright Eyes’ main gig as offbeat indie poster boy, like the synthesized beat on “Little Drummer Boy” or the discordant creaking and clanking sounds at the outset of “Away in a Manger.” But even that melts into the familial clatter of some forgotten Christmas morning caught on an old camcorder.
With his trademark quavering voice, Bright Eyes bumbles through “Blue Christmas” with just the right measure of lonesome and bestows a simultaneously rosy and regretful tone on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Despite their traditional musicality, most tracks are somehow eerie, reminiscent of the bleary feeling of creeping downstairs at 3 a.m. to sneak some eggnog and being awestruck by the stark wonder of the glistening Christmas tree’s reflection on the blue-cold world beyond the window. There’s a pervasive feeling that Conor Oberst, the man behind Bright Eyes, knows both the coziness and the gloom of the holidays. All proceeds from this album go to the Nebraska (where he’s from) AIDS Project.
At the time of the recording, Yoakam was still a twenty-something Kentucky boy in skinny jeans and a Navaho-print blazer that would be the laughingstock of contemporary pop-country fashion standards. But even in 1988, the pop-country movement was already beginning to rear its city-slicker head, and Yoakam’s youthful career ironically doubled as a last stand for old-school country. His voice traversed songs about hard-drinkin’ and honky-tonks and heartbreakers like your granddad’s pickup over the gravel road of a memory, kicking up dust in all the right places. The 14-song performance captured on Live From Austin TX was perhaps his finest hour; he was fresh off the heels of a little duet with his hero Buck Owens called “Streets of Bakerfield” and ready to charge headfirst into a fast-changing country music industry. In 1988, of course, it was impossible to predict just how quickly that battle would be lost.