In Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas, The Frogtown Hollow Jubilee Jug Band are defeated in a talent contest by the Riverbottom Nightmare Band. The Jug Band represents wholesomeness, honest work, and the simplicity of a country life. The Riverbottom Nightmare band represent excess, confidence, and aggression. The Jug Band plays old timey jug band stuff. The Riverbottom Nightmare band plays hard rock. Or they are supposed to. I guess I may have seen this for the first time at about five years old. I wasn’t especially skeptical, but at the same time I had heard KISS and Alice Cooper (the latter on the Muppet Show of all places). Even at that tender age, I knew that Riverbottom Nightmare Band was bullshit…they didn’t play hard rock, but some shitty puppet facsimile of hard rock for kids. I was not amused.
I can’t pretend that the Rolling Stone 100 Best Metal Albums exist outside of any context in my own life. I’ve heard many of these records and the truth be told, I have FEELINGS for some of them. Yet, I was not looking forward to listening to this album. I didn’t like it when it came out. I don’t like it now. The next band (and their most hyped album) are to metal what The Nightmare Riverbottom Band was to hard rock.
White Zombie was manufactured by Rob Zombie to give him an outlet to be edgy. In 1992, he was as weak-sauce an edgelord as ever espoused libertarianism. The B-horror movie homage had already been mastered by the very sincere, if a-bat-short-of-a-picnic, Glen Danzig. Say what you will about Glen’s musical stylings; he believed in his music. ‘La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One’ was also far from original sounding. Rick Ruben had managed to invent southern Goth rock with Danzig’s first solo album. The riffs on La Sexorcisto often follow that formula and otherwise largely yoinked from other bands—albeit mostly pretty good bands. The constant sampling from horror movies/religious performances was also old hat—this album is Ministry Lite, borrowing quite heavily from Al Jorgensen’s look and sound, but without the menace. Even the title is just cringingly edgelordly.
That’s not to say that the band Rob Zombie put together wasn’t good at creating a facsimile of sincere, boots-on-the-ground heavy metal. The opening of “I am Legend” is actually pretty creative, and veers from the pentatonic model that this album otherwise clings to like a shot at an appearance on Jerry Springer. As I forced myself to listen to every second of every song this morning, I found that there were moments that were genuinely groovy…”Soul Crusher” has some “Master of Puppets” era riffage on it that I could dig. But as soon as I would think, “This is OK”, the same thing would ruin it. That thing is Rob Zombie.
By far the worst thing about White Zombie is Rob Zombie. There. I said it. Rob Zombie is a shitty vocalist, and has no ability to modulate either pitch or volume. His monotonic grunts are only ever broken up by the flatted third, which is always the same word, “yeah”. Gargle gargle gargle gargle gargle gargle, YEAH!
No, Mr. Zombie. Please. No more.
If RZ sings “yeah” once on this album, he does it once a second. My friends and I once tried to play a game in which each person had to do a shot of beer every time someone said “fuck” in the film adaptation of Glengarry Glen Ross. You can’t really pour them fast enough, you make a mess, and its better just to enjoy the goddamned film without the silly games. By the end of the album, I wish I had been taking a shot of drano every time Zombie sings “yeah”. White Zombie was a manufactured, NY-straight to the arena type band that was made to make people think they were into metal, without having to be. Somebody put sunglasses on a muppet.
Although FWIW, I think Zombie’s horror movies are dope.
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