#16: Prince, ‘1999’ (1982) vs. Metallica, ‘Metallica’ (1991)


When I was in junior high in the early 80s there was a kid in our class, Kevin, who went on and on about this new thrash metal band called Metallica. He declared that one day they were going to be the biggest hard rock band in the world. We all knew he was a fool, of course; nothing could unseat Twisted Sister.

Turns out Kevin was right! By the end of the decade Metallica were well on their way to global metal domination and in 1991 they made it official with Metallica self-titled (aka the Black Album), which would go on to sell a bazillion jillion copies (approx.) and make Metallica fans out of everyone and their sister (twisted or not). I’d lost touch with Kevin by this point, but I wonder what he thought of the Black Album. I suspect he hated it – many “real” Metallica fans rue the day that their beloved thrashers recruited Bon Jovi producer Bob Rock to help them make an album of 12 polished tunes of melodic metal that included – yikes! – a love ballad (“Nothing Else Matters”).

I say they’re crazy (a band’s grassroots fans can be tiresome sometimes). The Black Album is freaking awesome. It’s dark, it’s heavy, it’s fun and it sounds amazing (thanks, Bob Rock!) without a bad song anywhere. Near perfect album.

With 1999, Prince continued to prove that not only was he a genius who could bend any music genre to his will, he also was the horniest son-of-a-bitch to ever pick up a microphone. Every song on this techno-funk masterpiece is either about sex or features it prominently, even when its tackling serious issues. Prince will car-fuck you (“Little red Corvette”) . He’ll Armageddon-fuck you (“1999”). He’ll even politico-fuck you (“Lady Cab Driver”). On “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, he declares: “Look here Marsha, I’m not saying this just to be nasty/I sincerely want to fuck the taste out of your mouth/Can you relate?”

I don’t know who Marsha is, but I’m a little scared for her.

There is no question Prince was engorged with talent and this album is an orgy of amazing sounds, but 70 minutes of pulsating musical intercourse eventually makes me want to fake a headache.

Kevin (and Marsha for that matter), this one’s for you…


WINNER: Metallica, Metallica (4 points)


80s: 14

90s: 21

80s: 31
90s: 49

Next week’s battle – #15: The Replacements, ‘Let it Be’ (1984) vs. Lucinda Williams, ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’ (1998)

#35: Metallica, ‘Kill ’em All’ (1983) vs. Wilco, ‘Being There’ (1996)


One thing I love about these battles is that they force me to listen to albums I used to love but rarely listen to anymore. Metallica’s debut album Kill ‘Em All is that for me.  This album introduced me to metal and for a brief 2-year period in my teens, I was a full blown metal head because of it. To me, this is authentic metal.  I F$%&ing love this album. It’s a hard high tempo metal experience filled with overdrive baselines, scorching guitar licks and anthemic vocal renderings. You can hear elements of punk music influences throughout, which weirdly adds a structured element to the songwriting and marries well with the lyrics’ rhythm and subject matter. I can see why Kill ‘Em All was a very influential album for metal bands to come. This album is an anger cry built for the masses. Its musical violence delivered in a way most had not heard before. Kill ‘Em All was groundbreaking.

Kill ‘Em All introduces itself to us as a building wave of drum rolls and guitar flourishes. A squealing guitar leads to a barrage of fast riffs and catchy metal verse.  “Hit the Lights”!!! Listen to us muther-f#$%ers.  We are on the scene and the scene won’t ever be the same.  We are like Sabbath on speed!!! Many may not agree with this, but I think the second track “Four Horseman” sounds a lot like Rush’s early records.  Good thing I love Rush! Just like that Canadian power trio, these polished thrash metal pioneers are so tight with their musicianship.  Its unrelenting musical beat down continues all through the album with songs like “Jump in the Fire”, “Whiplash”, and “No Remorse”.  This album is a heavyweight contender, completely ready to go toe-to-toe with any opponent.

It’s just too bad that Kill ‘Em All is up against one of my all-time favorite albums written by one of my all-time favourite bands.

Wilco’s Being There gets better for me with every listen.  I am so glad this battle gave me an excuse to listen to it over and over and over and over again. Being There is a gorgeous alt-collage of rock n’ roll, folk, country, grunge, pop, psychedelia and traditional Americana. The whole album is a love-hate letter to their fans, their band mates, and themselves.  “I want to thank you all, for NOTHING!!!” It’s that nothingness that they embrace.  It’s that nothingness that releases them and allows them to reflect on the beauty inherent in everything.  This contradiction threads throughout the album. I hear it even in their choice of song order, where they alternate from loud-outward expressions to soft-inward introspection. every song is a perfect reaction to what they just made as well as what I just heard.  After the steaming noise of “Misunderstood”, I need to simmer down with the calmness of “Far Far Away”.  After the tension has abated, I am ready to rock out with “Monday”.

Being There is perfectly arranged and listenable all the way through. There is no blunder here. Kill ‘Em All is perfectly listenable all the way through too. So if I am able to be as unbiased as I can be to even the playing field (which I can’t), this is a really close call. I think what Being There has that Kill ‘Em All doesn’t is a maturity and willingness to explore variations in tone and feel.  Of course we know that Metallica can show this maturity.  We see it in later albums.  Just not in this one.  Being There edges the win by a small margin.


WINNER: Wilco, Being There (2 points)


80s: 7

90s: 9

80s: 9
90s: 13

Next week’s battle – #34: Rolling Stones, Tattoo You (1981) vs. Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory (1995)