As mini-trends go, the nü metal fad's got legs: Korn's first album came out in 1994, and the band is still rocking adolescent treatment centers across the country. Nü metal is pretty patently mainstream now; the charts are full of Stainds, Nickelbacks, Disturbeds and other monosyllabically named bands for whom personal torment and societal persecution aren't merely results of lifestyle choices, but ideal states of being, conditions to be prized and fetishized. In our accelerated consumer culture, this classic rock 'n' roll stance has gradually become so highly stylized that, if you want to be one of society's true outcasts, you'll need to drop at least a cool grand on accessories. Weird.
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So anyway, there's Skinlab, who in another age might be playing bright-sheen, post-biker metal à la Iron Maiden, but instead is with us in the here and now. And so it plays the nü metal. It pretty much rules at it, too, and there are few things in life more welcome than people who are masters of their craft. Skinlab's producer, Steve Evetts, understands that it's not the bass that's important in metal, no matter the kind of metal. In the words of the Dead Milkmen, "It's the guitar," and the guitar on The Revolting Room is crisp and catchy and tighter than a sailor's knot. The opening skree in the song "Come Get It" is a feedback tone that thrillingly holds its ground for the entire first verse. The rest of the song is a chiropractor's dream, all head-nodding and pelvis-thrusting big beats buoying repetitive, mesmerizing riffs that are difficult, if not impossible, to resist.
The song's more radio-ready cousin is a sparkling number called "Anthem for a Falling Star," nakedly fabulous pop for people who can't stand all those smiling pop stars. Lyrically, well, there's lots of "can't take this pain" and "this pain is killing me" and "can't explain the way I feel inside." So there's that. But Skinlab plays with a conviction and intensity that bands like P.O.D. and Papa Roach can't even fake well. Skinlab exemplifies a thing somewhat bigger than the tropes to which nü metal's marketers routinely reduce it. It is worth watching.