Are metal fans more likely to be depressed?

Blabbermouth.net posted an interesting little article about a study done by University of Melbourne professor Katrina McFerran. Blabbermouth reports McFerran found teens who listen to metal “habitually and repetitively”  are more likely to suffer from depression.

McFerran — who is listed at the University of Melbourne Web site as a music therapist, researcher and lecturer with a specialty in music therapy for adolescents and children with disabilities — interviewed 50 teens between the ages of 13 and 18 and conducted a nationwide survey of 1,000 other teens while compiling her study.

According to university press release, “young people at risk of depression are more likely to be listening to music, particularly heavy metal music, in a negative way.” McFerran’s study concluded.

“Examples of this are when someone listens to the same song or album of heavy metal music over and over again and doesn’t listen to anything else,” the press release quotes McFerran as saying. “They do this to isolate themselves or escape from reality.”

“If this behavior continues over a period of time then it might indicate that this young person is suffering from depression or anxiety, and at worst, might suggest suicidal tendencies,” McFerran says in the press release.

McFerran says parents should pay attention to the music their children are listening to and should ask questions if a child’s behavior raises concerns.

“If parents are worried, they should ask their children questions like – how does that music make you feel?” the press release quotes McFerran as saying. “If children say the music reflects or mirrors the way they feel then ask more about what the music is saying.”

The comments on Blabbermouth were, for the most part, predictably histrionic. Without bothering with direct quotes, many of comments were in the vein of “metal’s awesome,” “I listen to metal and I’m not depressed,” and “McFerran sucks.”

But I think McFerran raises an interesting question — why do people listen to certain types of metal, and what does the music do for (or to) them?

The answer, of course, is that there is no one answer. People listen to music for a variety of reasons — and yes, one of those reasons (for some people) is that music reinforces their world view. That’s true of more genres than metal — country star Taylor Swift (and I’m only slightly familiar with her work) seems to have several songs about broken hearts and love gone wrong. Now, do people listen to those songs because they feel empowered by the fact that other people have also suffered broken hearts and have lived to tell the tale — or do they listen to them because they want to wallow in their pain?

Again, the answer depends on the individual. Somewhere, if we could find them, I’d sure we would come across scores of women and girls who play Swift’s broken heart songs repeatedly because they are experiencing the pain of a relationship gone wrong. Some of those women will feel better by identifying with the sentiments in the song, while others will be reminded of their own pain and feel worse.

My point here is that any depressed person is going to find music in any genre  that could potentially feed their feelings of isolation and sadness. I’m a big fan of classical music, but there are some pieces I won’t listen to because they’re just too much of a downer. Jazz, blues and even pop music are also full of sad tunes; It’s not hard to imagine a depressed person obsessively playing Miles Davis’ “Flemenco Sketches” over and over and feeling even bluer than before.

But McFerran singles out metal — or, more specifically, the teens she interviewed who were depressed more often than not indicated a preference for metal music. Well, certainly, metal (generally) is darker music than country or classical or pop, so a person with a dark mindset could be drawn to metal’s dark themes. But that’s not the case for everyone.

Some people, myself included, find metal rather empowering; as McFerran says the University of Melbourne press release, some people use metal as exercise music; I never go for a run without metal on my mp3 player — and when I recently ran a half-marathon, songs like Motorhead’s “Deaf Forever” and S.O.D.’s “United Forces” gave me an energy boost at times when I was feeling tired.

But when I’m not pounding pavement, I still listen to metal — largely because I think it’s fun. Sure, there’s policial, religious and social commentary thrown in by some of the better bands … but mostly metal is just exciting music . I don’t listen to any music that makes me sad, or would make a bad day worse; for example, I think Nine Inch Nails’ “The Downward Spiral” is a fantastic metal album … I just never want to hear it again.

I agree with McFerran that parents should be aware of what kind of music their children listen to — just as parents should know what movies and TV shows their kids watch and who they socialize with on a daily basis. I also think, if a child is listening to sad songs in any genre over and over, that’s cause for an intervention.

I think McFerran’s study is even-handed — and I think McFerran would agree that not every teen metal fan is depressed and not every depressed teen is a metal fan.

Hopefully, parents and adults won’t use McFerran’s study to stereotype metal fans. There are a lot of teen metal fans who are doing just fine.

Review: Metallica & Lou Reed, “Lulu”

Loutallica

Every once in a while, there’s an album so big that every member of the metal press simply has to write about it.

“Lulu,” the collaboration between Metallica and ’60s-70s electric/ecclectic folk freak Lou Reed is one of those albums.

We can’t ignore an album by “the biggest metal band in the world,” I suppose … but reviewing a humorless, directionless, pointless car crash like “Lulu” ain’t gonna be a whole lotta fun, either. Sigh, let’s just tackle this sunnavabeech of an album right now and get it over with, shall we?

Loutallica first performed together at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and they thought it went so freakin’ well that they had to collaborate on a full album. So Reed dusted off some lyrics he’d cobbled together based on a cycle of German expressionist plays (no, I’m not making that up), presented them to the band and said, “OK, boys, let’s make some art!”

If the comments from Reed, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett are to be believed, “art” is really what they think they achieved with “Lulu.” I guess the argument could be made — I mean hell, if I guy can stick a crucifix in a jar, pee on it and pass it off as “art,” the word “art” has no meaning anyway.

So I’ll give Loutallica a pass in the “art” category, but honestly, this is just about the worst musical pile of dung I’ve heard in years. Words are inadequate to articulate the incredible, impossible, staggering awfulness of this album. Every last thing about it is wrong, and it’s an album that will not please fans of either Metallica or Lou Reed. It’s as if the album was cut with the deliberate intention of alienating as many listeners as possible. If that was the goal, Loutallica succeeded.

What’s wrong with “Lulu”? Well, let’s start with that German expressionist yap Reed is spouting. According to their Web site, the “Lulu” plays were written in the early 1900s and were about “a young abused dancer’s life and relationships.”

Maybe someone could have taken that theme and made a compelling album — the phrase “young abused dancer” stirs an interesting mental image of a 20-something ballerina with a bit of a kinky streak buried within her — and who wouldn’t want to meet that girl?. Hell, give that concept to Shirley Manson and Garbage and I’ll bet they make something sexy out of it.

Reed, however, wasn’t up to the challenge. Reed sounds stoned out of his mind, or just off his meds, as he rambles through each of “Lulu’s” dismal excuses for songs. And the lyrics, wowee-zowee, you gotta hear them to believe them.

“Follow me around, pathetic little dog,” Reed croaks in “Little Dog.” “Smell your sh*t in the wind.”

On “Frustration,” Reed reaches a level of epic atrociousness, with lines like, “spermless like a girl,” “you and your prickless lover” and “I want so much to hurt you, I want you as my wife.”

“I’m a woman who likes men,” Reed spits on “Mistress Dread.” “I wish you would tie me up and beat me … I wish there was a strap of blood you could kiss away… I beg you to degrade me,” and it just goes on and on, with every new utterance more ridiculous, hideous and embarrassing than the last.

Frankly, Metallica vocalist James Hetfield doesn’t help this mess. Het is unintentionally hilarious when he starts yelling “small town girl!” on “Brandburg Gate”  and “I am the table!” on “The View.” Later in the album, Het sings, “why do I cheat on me?” And you’ll think, “jeeze, James, I don’t know why — but stop it, so I don’t have to hear about it anymore, why donchya?”

Musically, only two of the tracks, “Iced Honey” and the first half of “Junior Dad” sound like “songs” at all. The rest of the album sounds like a “St. Anger” jam session intermixed with a “free-jazz” session that makes Spinal Tap’s Jazz Odyssey sound inspired.

There’s not enough “metal” here to make metal fans happy — sure, the band thrashes a bit on “Mistress Dread,” but most of the music sounds like jam-band-gone-wrong.

So “Lulu” is a trainwreck of monumental proportions. Everyone involved behind the scenes had to realize how earth-shakingly bad this project was, so the real mystery about “Lulu” is: Why didn’t anyone tell Reed and the band the truth? Wasn’t there a producer or manager or even a freakin’ studio janitor who could’ve said, “sorry, Lars, but this music really sucks”? Perhaps this is what happens when artists get so big that they lose all connection with reality.

Reed and Metallica seems to be off in their own parallel reality, where down is up, right is left and anything they record is automatically “good” and “art.” Well, bullsh*t. “Lulu” is absolute unlistenable dreck. I can’t even laugh at the album, because Loutallica is obviously taking the damn thing soooooo seriously. What a joyless pile of broken cogs and widgets.

The members of Metallica were always hell-bent on doing things their way, on their own terms. That worked for them in the past, but we’ll see how much of the fan base is willing to embrace “Lulu.” I think Metallica is gonna lose some fans on this one.

After listening to “Lulu” several times, I wouldn’t blame those old fans who throw up their hands and walk away one single bit.

Have you heard the atrocious Metallica-Lou Reed collaboration yet?

I read enough metal news to know Metallica was working on an album with 1960s hippie-dippie rocker Lou Reed, but I wasn’t too excited about the collaboration; frankly, Lou Reed bores me and I didn’t see how adding Metallica to the mix would improve Reed much.

Today, however, I stumbled across “The View,” the first single from the Metaliloureedica album “Lulu” — and all I can say is “wow, this crap is 100 times worse than I ever imagined it would be.”

What’s it sound like? Musically, the riffage sounds like a leftover out of the “Load/Reload” sessions — kinda average, rather pedestrian, not bad but certainly nothing to make me jump out of my seat. Upon repeated listens, “The View’s” main riff sounds like a ripoff of “Sad But True.”

Alas, the music is the best thing about the song.  There’s nothing even remotely kind I can say about Reed’s voice.

Again, I’m no Lou Reed fan. As far as I’m concerned, Lou Reed can pick up “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” and take it somewhere else (far, far from me). The best thing I can say is the original Velvet Underground version of “Sweet Jane” is pretty decent … but the Cowboy Junkies version of the song puts Reed and the Velvet Underground to shame.

So I’ve admitted my bias … but even if I were completely impartial, I can’t believe I’d enjoy “The View.” Reed’s performance sounds like someone got Reed slightly drunk in the studio, put him in front of the mic and told him to “wing it” to the music. Well, “wing it,” Reed does; he rambles incoherently and tunelessly through the entire track, never making sense, never finding the rhythm, not carrying a hint of a melody, etc., etc., you get the idea.

Metallica vocalist James Hetfield tries to save this flaming poop bag on the choruses, and the band speeds up for an instrumental coda and choppy-as-hell guitar solo at the end, but it’s too late. Nothing the band could do would keep this wreck from crashing dismally.

Wanna hear it? Knock yourself out, cuz it’s right here on Youtube.

So I’m gonna skip “Lulu” when it drops later this month. But hey, there’s a new Megadeth album coming and at least they’re not peeing on their legacy …