Patrick McGinlay's Internet Tendency

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March 3, 2003

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I was at RMIT the other day catching up with comics auteur and sexy chick Nicola Hardy when we came across a table full of old C-90 cassette tapes being given away free. Evidently the student union's tape lending library was being expunged -- possibly in favour of CDs, but more likely the library's gone for good, a victim of the music-copyright-litigation monster that's risen from the depths since the whole Napster thing.

It was an interesting selection. None of the tapes were "official releases", as such -- they were all home-taped. Some of the tapes were straight album-rips, some were proper mix-tapes, but all had one thing in common: they were full of '80s music. Chances are all the tapes were made in the late '80s/early '90s (a golden age of music, you will agree). There was Culture Club in there.

Nicola handed me a tape labeled "Ride / Nowhere". She said I'd like it.

"How do you know?" I asked. She mumbled something I couldn't hear, busy looking at Wet Wet Wet or some like shit. She was right, of course. I'd never heard of the band Ride, and this was their first album, circa 1990. British psych-rock revival. Nice.

However, the tape that caught my eye was the one with a newsprint photograph of an unidentifiable guitarist pasted on the cardboard sleeve, and the bold words "METAL ASSAULT".

I can't resist a METAL ASSAULT at the best of times (although my preference tends to lay in HARD ROCK ASSAULTS), and the tape cover promised at least one track by the almighty MOTÖRHEAD, as well as classics from such artists as SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, W.A.S.P., THE CULT, ROSE TATTOO and MEGADETH. Obviously I grabbed the sucker right up...


Mix Tape (Various Artists)

Side A
1. I'm On To You / Hurricane (1988)
2. Ride Like The Wind / Saxon (1988)
3. Friday On My Mind / Gary Moore (1987)
4. The Real Me / W.A.S.P. (1988)
5. Rock Me / Great White (1987)
6. Antisocial / Anthrax (1988)
7. Anarchy In The U.K. / Megadeth (1988)
8. Eat The Rich / Motorhead (1987)
9. Possessed To Skate / Suicidal Tendencies (1987)
10. Love Removal Machine / The Cult (1987)

Side B
11 - 18. Same as Side A, tracks 4 - 10
19. Kid Ego / Extreme (1989)
20. Born To Be Wild / Rose Tattoo (1985)
21. Hideaway / Leatherwolf (1989)
22. No Easy Way Out / Roxx Gang (1988)


Side A opens strong with "I'm On To You". Hummable chorus, and always good when a song uses the phrase "na na na na na na" liberally. Next track comes from classic Brit metallers Saxon, last popular when "The Young Ones" was in production. Their cover of Chris Cross' "Ride Like The Wind" was a questionable move for a metal band, but comes out OK.

The next track, I would suggest, is probably the tape's low point: Gary Moore covers The Easybeats' signature song, "Friday On My Mind", which I believe was somewhat recently voted "best Australian song ever" or something. I refuse to believe that anyone who has ever heard the gritty, urban original would think it needs a synth break/guitar solo. One more cover follows, this one from W.A.S.P., whose version of The Who's "The Real Me" is faithful to the point of redundancy, but does prove they have good taste.

Great White's singer does an excellent Robert Plant impression, and the band employs it in service of "Rock Me", a '70s-style epic complete with quiet bluesy opener. Nice.

Our tape sequencer kicks things up a notch at this point with our first hint of thrash so far: "Antisocial", a Trust cover, by Anthrax. Production a little thin -- not exactly my taste. Then, morning becomes dyspeptic when Megadeth arrive, toting a substandard cover (we've had a few of these, haven't we) of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy In The U.K.", which commits a double sin: they change it to "Anarchy In The U.S.A.", AND they don't bother rhyming "anarchist" with "Anti-Christ". Forget what I said earlier -- THIS is the tape's low point. Disrespect Johnny Rotten at your own peril, Megadeth!

Luckily, Motörhead stride in with "Eat The Rich", which, while not one of their greatest songs, breaks up the metallic monotony with a little double-entendre. When Lemmy offers to show you his "bacon torpedo", how can you answer in the negative?

Downhill again. Suicidal Tendencies' "Possessed To Skate" is not well produced, not much fun and not my thing to boot. Vinnie Vincent's "Boyz Are Gonna Rock" has nice guitar work but otherwise sounds like a Mötley Crüe reject, and is pretty much what you'd expect from a guy who used to be in KISS.

The Cult end Side A with "Love Removal Machine", which kicks my ass! It's not AC/DC, but it's close. It's got some ROCK 'N ROLL in it, and I am realising a lot of this music really doesn't. I feel a little gypped until I realise that what I have been promised is not rock, but a METAL ASSAULT, which I cannot deny I have gotten. Also, this tape was free.

But wait! It's time for Side B. I turn the tape over, hit "Play", and... it's "The Real Me" again! What's going on?

As it transpires, Side B is virtually the same as Side A, but the first three songs have been tossed and replaced with four new closers. I don't know why this is (certainly there was plenty of PRIME METAL circa 1988 that could have been subbed in), but I like to think that the tape sequencer didn't have time to look for more good tracks because he was making this tape for a mate in Narre Warren who was having a house party THAT NIGHT and needed some hot sounds for the tape deck. "Bugger it," Dazza would have thought, "nobody'll notice anyhow -- they'll just think the tape's gone back to the beginning."

But once "Love Removal Machine" ends for the second time, we (and Dazza's mates) are blindsided by a sudden burst of Extreme! "Kid Ego" is from their first, self-titled album, and is highly melodic, tightly played, good-time show-off metal. "Born To Be Wild" is yet another cover, but I would suggest that Rose Tattoo pull it off. Gary Moore should be ashamed.

Leatherwolf give us a note-perfect rendition of the almighty GENERIC METAL BALLAD in "Hideaway". It's got everything -- the quiet opening, the flaming chorus, the flanged arpeggios, the angsty soprano yelps, a guitar solo with tapping AND harmonic overdubs... it's even in E minor! The word "genius" is tossed around so casually these days.

Our final track is "No Easy Way Out", by Roxx Gang. Apparently Roxx Gang provided the soundtrack for the Playboy video "Girls Of South Beach" with this song and others. I can tell you that next time I look at hot, wet, writhing Playmates, this song will be playing in my head, if not on my stereo. Sadly, the song cut out before the end: our 90 minutes is up.

Well, what we have here is a solid, if random, collection of B-grade 80's metal, unfortunately scarred by a few so-so covers. Thank you, anonymous tape jockey. I only wonder what you are listening to tonight.

Have your tastes changed since you made this tape in 1990 or so? Have you left hair-metal behind for contemporary alternative? Do tap-solos contine to ring out into your suburban backyard, or is it now the murky, sobbing grind of Limp, Korny axe-chugging that accompanies your beery escapades?

This human connection is unique to the mix-tape -- a personal statement of who you are and what you stand for, enunciated for you by talented artists with the courage to say with their music the things you can only mumble into your pillow late at night. Things like "I feel", and "I love", and "Wanna see my bacon torpedo?"

The art of the mix-tape is fading into our cultural background -- Discmans and portable MP3 players have seen to that -- and soon will exist nowhere but in the dark closet of our shared past, next to the NES, behind the Wombles toys. Why not pull yours out and remember them tonight?

Even better, swap them with friends. Show them who you once were. Let your dusty mix-tapes sing again. Until you do, there will be a tiny little void in your heart -- not a silence, exactly, more like a faint hiss... punctuated by some pops, some clicks, and the reassuring thump of the tone-arm returning to the ON/UP position.


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