Wondering why the multimillion-selling Metallica chose the relatively little-known Corrosion of Conformity as their touring partners? Maybe it's because, whatever you may say about their limp Load or new Lollapalooza hairdos, the guys in Metallica know good music when they hear it. Or maybe, having been slagged for swirling different sounds into their metal mix, they appreciate that, musically, COC has been there and done that for just about every trend short of country revisionism.
COC has managed to be punk, thrash and hard-core before any of it was cool. But throughout it all, some elements have remained constant, in particular a non-traditional "boogie" band sound that's focused on the tight ZZ Top-style rhythm of drummer Reed Mullin and, except for a period when he was replaced by Phil Swisher, bassist Mike Dean. It's that COC boogie, which has been virtually unchanged from 1983's Eye for an Eye to last year's Wiseblood, that's allowed the band to change singers three times in its 15-year history without losing momentum. (Metallica, too, obviously appreciates the ZZ Top formula, as is made clear on Wiseblood when Metallica's James Hetfield adds his vocals to "Man or Ash," a metallic duet that's damn near a Top shuffle.)
Back in 1982, in Raleigh, North Carolina, COC began as just one more hard-core/ thrash/punk band. The lineup then was Mullin, Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman and a singer who disappeared, to be replaced first by Karl Agell and, after he was kicked from the group, Pepper Keenan. Keenan, the only non-North Carolina native in the band (for Keenan, New Orleans is home) joined the band in 1989 as a guitarist, but in his eight years as a member of COC he's taken on more songwriting duties along with the vocal chores. Most of the lyrics on Wiseblood were written by Keenan while he was holed up in a Raleigh boarding house, living in a single room and taping his words up on the wall as they came out of him. "The guys at the boarding house would come in and think I was some kind of freak or burned-out poet," Keenan says. "I was the only white dude in the whole building, and they thought I was crazy anyway, so they started calling me Wiseblood [as in] 'Hey Wiseblood! Wha's up?' "
That story, Southern gothic to the core, doesn't make you buy COC as the little old band from North Carolina? Then check out the first six items taken from Mike Dean's "Internet Touring Top 40": "living in a bus; foraging for food; Sam and Dave's 'I Thank You'; ZZ Top covering 'I Thank You'; Misfits' 'Last Caress'; and Metallica covering 'Last Caress.' " That those six things still excite Dean after some 15 years of life on the road -- plus what they suggest about the roots and influence of boogie, punk and metal -- say a lot about one of the few truly underrated long-term outfits left out there.
-- Andy Langer
Corrosion of Conformity opens for Metallica at 7 p.m. Monday, April 28, at the Summit. Tickets are $28.75 and $38.75. For info, call 629-3700.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters -- BHTM has never been a jam band in the long-winded sense of, say, Blues Traveler -- or even the increasingly hit-savvy Dave Matthews Band, for that matter. Their brains simply won't work that way. They continue to see a song as an end unto itself, not some launching pad for instrumental flatulence. So why is BHTM consistently lumped with the HORDE contingent? The reason's pretty simple, actually: This road-tested rock outfit is a frequent participant in HORDE's Hippiepalooza road extravaganza. And with that commitment, of course, comes a mandatory membership in the "Sugar Magnolia" Appreciation Society, not to mention the closet Deadhead stigma that accompanies it. Never mind that BHTM sounds more like a wackier version of the Band than the Grateful Dead on its jubilant new CD, Beautiful World. Not helping matters any is the fact that the group hails from Boulder, Colorado, a college town teeming with trust fund gypsies and sundry other unwashed folk with wads of expendable income, every one of whom, it seems, loves the band unconditionally. And I may just join their burgeoning commune. At Numbers, 300 Westheimer, Thursday, April 24. Nil Lara opens. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. 629-3700. (Hobart Rowland)
Herbie Hancock -- Herbie Hancock is certifiably one of the greatest living legends of jazz. After first achieving prominence as a member of Miles Davis's seminal mid-'60s quintet, Hancock went on to practically invent electric funk jazz with his '70s era albums. In the early '80s, he even became an MTV star with the "Rockit" video. So what's this cutting edge pioneer up to these days? Would you believe playing Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel cover tunes? How about acoustic piano renditions of hits by Nirvana, Don Henley and Babyface? Believe it. He's either lost his mind or is taking a side path off the road of a great career. At Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington Avenue, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 30. Tickets are $25 to $50. 869-TICS. (Mark Towns
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