Released: June 24,2014 – Reprise
by Mike Skinner
Goddamn you, David Letterman. You know a thing or two. My father used to let me stay up super late on school nights to watch the original Late Night that came on after Carson. On some kind of very basic level, I sort of always got it. He did everything on purpose. Absurdist humor is either in you or it isn’t. It’s why only some people appreciate Broken Lizard.
His in-house band was always filled with the most amazing players. Anton Fig has been there for twenty-plus years and he’s played with everyone. Shit, the bandleader made his bones at SNL. Will Lee? Sid McGinnis? Steve Jordan? (Yeah, that Steve Jordan) Benie Worrell? Warren Zevon sitting in with David Sanborn? Oh, and don’t forget about Felicia Collins. Name me another female, front-of-the-house electric guitarist that’s ever been on television on a regular basis. I mean, I was just barely growing up and I knew then that these guys were amazing, even before I knew a thing about music.
Basically, Dave’s a music guy. Particularly, a drum guy, or as I should specify, a drum kit guy. It’s deep in the Letterman lore for him to always praise kits on air at the end of a live filming of a band. It’s the same way that Conan is with guitars. He’ll ask if it’s rented or owned and then he’ll say, “That’s beautiful.” on live film during the credits. There’s years of recorded evidence of this. Everyone has Youtube, help yourself. His program has turned me on to an immeasurable volume of music over the course of most of my life. So all I have to say is, goddamn you, David Letterman.
I was not in the mood, nor do I really have the time or energy to have a “Favorite New Band.” but you got me again. You son of a bitch. My editor asked me to listen to a band and write a quick, short review of their newly released album. Initially, I hesitated but my brain is foggy and unused and so I said yes. This band is called Mastodon. I had previously heard of them and possibly heard a song or two on the internet at some point in the past, but that was it. I knew that they were a metal band and the one guy had the tattoo on his face.
So, I do as any intelligent person living in the year 2014 (Anno Domini) would do and I look them up online. One of the first videos that comes up is a Letterman performance. Then, another one. David Letterman doesn’t let bad bands play on his show a second time. I mine a little. Smart cats. Stoner band nerds. Two Yankees and two Good Ole’ Boys. Central New York State and the Deep South, respectively. Then I watch some live stuff. The internet can be pretty rad if you use it properly. They take turns singing the lead lines, in-song. There is a litany of great metal bands that Mastodon pay tribute to in their sound. They even do a version of Orion on a Kerrang pressing of a Master of Puppets cover album. Their pedigree seemed legit. Plus, two Letterman appearances, right?
I’m not trying to brag, but I know a guy. I get an early release copy of the new album, “ONCE MORE ‘ROUND THE SUN”. Now all of a sudden, I’m re-intrigued by metal. Normally, I’m old and just listen to country from the seventies and punk from the nineties because I’ve already memorized all of the words. All of my pleasant surprises these days are hipsters sitting on suitcases and singing renditions of Jackson 5 tunes. I’m cool with that. It makes my ears feel like they’re being hugged and my girlfriend and I will never fight about what’s on the box. This is different though. This shit is a science experiment. It’s a 72 hour-long game of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s Rush on adrenochrome. It’s Crimson. It’s fucking straight up prog, and it’s heavenly.
This record is only what I can accurately describe as a…ah…(fart sound with my mouth)…fuck. It’s Southern like C.O.C. It’s High Desert like Homme. It’s got thrash. It’s Sabbath all day. It’s so good. This is my new favorite band. I hope this isn’t my Mid-Life Crisis. This would make for a very boring existential dilemma.
Me: “Honey, I think I’m going to get back into metal, like totally back into it.”
Her: “O.K. I guess when I go through menopause, I’ll just skip it and decide to watch the entirety of Mad About You on constant loop.”
Me: “Fuck. Never mind. I’ll just put Rumors on again.”
That being said, this album is big and full and very well-rounded. It doesn’t stop. It’s meant to be ingested as a whole piece of music. They release everything on vinyl as well, with notable album art. I hate to use the term “Throwback” because it’s tired and meaningless, but you know what I mean. The Drive-By Truckers carry the same cross and both bands seem to do it willingly. While I admittedly know nothing of their back catalog, I will say that this is a great record. I feel like the me that used to listen to Metallica in Eric Flores’ bedroom, across the street from the house I grew up in. The same house I learned about Letterman. Eric was the kid with the Sun-In bangs. The kid whose mom let him cover entire walls with pages torn out of Thrasher. We would play Anthrax in the driveway and build shitty launch ramps. Now he’s a mechanic and I sit in a cubicle and the world is what it is and I know less and less about anything and everything as each day goes by. I had forgotten how it felt to be that version of myself though, and for a blip I got to be stupid and young and have everything figured out, like I was in Eighth Grade again. So, thank you Mastodon. I owe you one.