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A good sense of humor is often an endearing trait in a thrash metal band because it helps to cancel out some of the excessive negativity that dominates the lyrics of the genre. Granted, the world itself can be a pretty negative place most of the time so you can’t fault any rock or metal band for being honest, but without a little bit of laughter and a break from all of the seriousness we don’t get past age 40 without a couple of strokes and a lot of happy pills. Anthrax’s first single from their widely acclaimed “Among the Living” album definitely provides a healthier alternative to overdosing on prescription anti-depressants, giving us a break from all the social commentary and delivering some solid entertainment.
The title track is definitely not comical in the sense that the other songs on here are, but is a very entertaining musical retelling of the Judge Dredd comic series. The principle riff that dominates the song is quite simple and repeated often, but it’s always the simple parts of any song that stick in your memory. While Scott Ian and the rest of the ballsy rhythm section of this outfit provide a solid backdrop, we are also treated to one of Dan Spitz’s crazier and more technically ambitious lead breaks. He has always maintained his own identity by relying more on melodic devices rather than shred up the whole time like Kirk Hammet and several others tended to at the time. And Joey Belladonna provides his best vocal performance of anything from the “Among the Living” here, as he wasn’t fully subjected to Scott Ian’s desire for a less melodic and more shout oriented punk style at this point.
The rest of what is on here is an all out laugh fest. We are treated to a rather brilliant parody of the Beastie Boys sound in “I’m the Man”, complete with plenty of intentionally screwed up beats, off the cuff vocal track mixing, and some of the goofiest lyrics ever put to the metal style. I don’t know what is funnier; hearing Frank Bello shouting “I’m the Man” over and over in a geeky voice or Joey constantly messing up the words and being called an idiot by Scott. “Bud E. Luvbomb and Satan’s Lounge Band” gets even more ridiculous as the band gets itself into the murky world of Lounge Swing Jazz music, among 3 or 4 other randomly selected genres. I think somewhere towards the end Charlie Benante actually plays part of the closing drum solo to Zepplins’s “Rock and Roll”. Combine all this with a really weird spoken diatribe and you end up with something not too far from Frank Zappa’s timeless classic “Titties and Beer”.
Singles and EPs are usually the place where bands get all the clowning around out of their system, and you can’t really complain in Anthrax’s case since they are actually pretty damn funny. Unfortunately, like even the best comedy routines, there is a limit to the amount of staying power upon repeated listens. This would definitely be worth tracking down, although the best route would be finding a place to download it since singles seem to become extremely rare after 20 years, especially if the band has subsequently released most of this stuff on a couple of compilations instead of as a box set containing all the original singles the way Helloween did.