7 · Some Kind of Monster

One of my favourite segments of Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes featured Iggy Pop and Tom Waits meeting up at a diner and tiptoeing around each other’s feelings, neither wanting to admit that they actually care about all of that rock-star stuff. I still find it entertaining to peer behind the rock-and-roll facade and get a glimpse of the ordinary Joes underneath; guess ten years of reading Rolling Stone hasn’t quite worn off.

You don’t get a better glimpse behind the facade than Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. With everyone calling it a real-life Spinal Tap I was expecting embarrassing bickering and self-important posturing, and there was plenty of that, but it turned out to be much more interesting: Some Kind of Monster shows what would have happened if Spinal Tap had actually got their shit together in the final act.

The first half is full of aimless jam sessions, lead-singer self-destruction, and interference from group counsellors with a penchant for cable-knit jumpers. Through this part of the film, the band look like a bunch of chancers rehearsing in a garage who just happen to be rich and successful. The only sane advice comes from Lars Ulrich’s father, a hippy wizard with long wispy beard who dispenses judgment on lacklustre demo tapes like Old Father Metal. At one point when the remaining band members turn up at their ex-bass player’s gig, you wonder if the biggest heavy metal band on the planet is destined to disintegrate.

But something turns them from a Spinal Tap fate. James Hetfield returns from rehab, the demos start to sound like Metallica songs, a smokin’ new bass player is recruited, and Metallica turn up at a major awards ceremony looking for all the world like actual rock stars. When the album finally hits the shelves, it feels like a happy ending, even if you’ve never heard it. It left me curious enough to check the Amazon user reviews afterwards—not bad, apparently—but I’d be surprised if it’s better than Some Kind of Monster, which has to be one of the most entertaining rock documentaries ever made.

Here’s what people said about this entry.

Actually, the album is, in my ever so humble opinion, a steaming heap of crap.

I can't stand some of the stupid songs on it, especially that bit with the Ticking and Tocking.

This was the most disappointing thing about an otherwise brilliant documentary.

My film review here:

Added by Nic on a Sunday in December.

I’ll take your word for it, Nic. My own Metallica collection extends to two albums (not hard to guess which ones), and I’m in no rush to expand it.

Added by Rory on a Monday in December.