They should have sent a poet....

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Lyrics are important.

I know we can’t all be Steve Earle or Bob Dylan, but I expect and demand a certain level of poetic skill from anyone who makes a living putting music around words. If you can’t meet my minimum standard – if you think rhyming ‘soul’ with ‘whole’ is deep, for example – I’m going to make fun of you.

I’m a writer, and I can’t let bad poetry go even if you can shred the fretboard into little maple splinters.

That said, a pretty cool song can cover up bad lyrics for a hell of a long time. For instance, take the opening two lines from War Pigs by Black Sabbath:

“Generals gathered in their masses,
Just like witches at black masses.”

Ozzy Osbourne has earned the right to be as twisted as a four-inch wood screw, but Ozzy, dude, you just rhymed ‘masses’ with ‘masses.’ I know it’s a homonym, but come on, man.

Or how about this little diamond from Army of One on the new Annihilator album Metal:

“Just one big family
Been around since the 1980s
Old school, we're livin’ in the past
They said it would never last.”

I know Jeff Waters is trying to say metal rules, which it does, but I think there are better ways to say it. And the rest of the song is just as horrid as that little snippet.

Another thing metal guys are bad for is just yelling words in a row:

Agitation...Violation...Mutilation...Planet Dies.”

That’s a Metallica special from Blackened, found on And Justice for All... and it’s pretty rough… tough… stuff. It also spawned a lot of copycat yelling as bangers flipped through the dictionary looking for more angry-sounding words.

It clearly isn’t easy to match great music to great lyrics, so when someone does it properly, it’s a pretty special thing.

That’s why I’m going to see Steve Earle on March 10 and the Burt.  Check out The Revolution Starts Now or Dixieland and you'll see what I mean.


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