The Decline of Western Civilization…. The Metal Years… revisited.

Harvey Milk (the Band) “Life—The Best Game In Town”

I should have known It was only a matter of time before someone went and revisited Southern Rock.
This amazing new record traces it’s lineage not back though to Lynyrd Skynrd, but to Black Sabbath.

This is not your stepdaddies girlfriends .38 special reunion, or some third generation Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band…

This is epic Post-Southern-Rock DOOM, distinct enough to spawn a genre all it’s own…

It is what I have been waiting for since I was a lost 15 year old growing up in the rural/suburban south.

Like many people, I filtered all of my experience through music.
Southern rock was a local favorite in the late 70’s through the mid 80’s.
And while the standard bearers of the genre, such as Lynyrd Skynrd, and 38 Special, always rang hollow to me I couldn’t get some of the tunes, and musical phrases and intonations out of my head. This is not to say that some of the original music wasn’t extraordinary, but it all lacked the sense of HEAVY that I carried around with me, that I was so eager to find reflected….

Soon enough the metal revival emerged, lead by bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden. They initially added some much need menace to the palate before other dumber bands became more popular and devolved the genre into a mullet ridden fashion joke.
Still nothing seemed to speak to what my experience of that time was.

I imagined something very slow, ugly, and extremely heavy….
Harvey Milk’s Life—The best game in town filled that gap. Nearly thirty years after the fact, I find myself listening to what should have been my soundtrack to living in Hopewell, Virginia.

This is smart Heavy Metal…. and while my impression of their music may have nothing to do with their intention, it easily allows for me to project those impressions on to it.

From the cover with the Iron Maiden poster peeling off the wall, to the gatefold image of the corner of mattress on a box spring surrounded by all kinds of neglected trash.

Harvey Milk is from Athens, Georgia, so they know the complexities of that regional identity.

I don’t have the musical knowledge to explain specifically what I am hearing…. and how to break it down to explain it, but I hear it.

For me it liberates everything rotten about the South that I have every seen or repeatedly found myself near, ever, that has stuck in head and formed a monster truck vision of hell on earth that I find myself trapped in when in the blackest of moods.

What exactly am I talking about?

Imagine if you will a post industrial landscape of mostly overweight people narrowed by decades of sameness, with children dumbed down in public school, ever listening to the metastized conservatism of their parents, all projected through their frustration and disappointment in life, always in earshot of some ignorant ass parroting rabid right wing talk radio, embittered and thwarted by every failure large and small– to the point of sabotaging their own prospects, blaming everyone and taking no responsibility, always suspect of others and people from far away. Vicious mean too, when drunk.

The South at it worst is still a cliche teeming with aggressively untalented rednecks threatening to “kick the ass off” of everything that isn’t as limited as the low expectations they aspire to.

In my dulled concentrated memory the lowest of the low amounted to….
dumpy fluorescent lit living rooms with junk piled up over fossilized pizza slices under acres of dirty laundry stained by the piss of quivering toy dogs and feral cats… or sour white trash fools entrenched in doublewide trailers parked in backyards rebel yelling that same bullshit about damn yankees this and damn foreigners that…. wearing and flying the confederate battle flag and talkin bout the civil war as the “war for southern independence” and how the south is gonna RISE again….

In my own experience I got so tired of people who were always against anything they didn’t already know, against everything new, clinging to same three or four hundred classic rock or “new country” songs endlessly droning on the radio between the blather of idiot minded djs. Crashed on old 80s box furniture crowded around sagging shelves piled up with scratched old Molly Hatchet and Alabama records that never get played anymore, homemade VHS tapes of movies replayed on network television, paperback novels, and bobblhead dolls of down home heros like gallagher and Jeff forxworthy, snowed under inches of dust and discarded CD players, VCRs, laser disc players, broken nintendos, and remote control toy car parts, everything smelling of marlboro lites or Winston cigarettes and stale beer in cramped rooms looking out to rusted out Trans-Am’s, Cameros, and 380zx’s nested in tall grass serenaded by cicadas and gameshow repeats….

Yee Fuckin Haw…..

When I listen to this record every rotten experience, every depressing scene from my time there flashed through my mind and was obliterated, released, and absolved by Creston Spiers wail.

If Ronnie Van Zandt came back as a zombie, this is what he’d sound like.

Life–the Best Game In Town is more than the sum of it’s parts. While it may invoke the extremely heavy, it also represents the South at it’s best… when all expectations are exceeded, and you have the experience of being raised up rather than let down. And that is what the best of the original Southern Rock bands did.

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