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As minitrends go, this nü metal fad's got legs: Korn's first album came out in 1994, and it is still rocking adolescent treatment centers across the country. Nü metal is pretty patently the mainstream now; the charts are full of Stainds, Nickelbacks, Disturbeds, and other bands for whom personal torment and societal persecution aren't just the potential results of lifestyle choices but ideal states of being, conditions to be prized and fetishized. In our accelerated consumer culture, this classic rock 'n' roll stance has become so highly stylized that if you want to be one of society's true outcasts, you'll need to drop at least a cool grand on accessories.

So anyway, there's Skinlab, a group that in another age might be playing post-biker metal à la Iron Maiden but instead is with us in the here and now. And so these fellas play the nü metal. They pretty much rule at it too, and there are few things in life more welcome than people who are masters of their craft. Skinlab's producer, Steve Evetts, understands that it's not the bass that's important in metal, no matter what kind of metal we're talking about. In the words of the Dead Milkmen, "It's the guitar," and the guitar on Revolting Room is crisp and catchy and tighter than a sailor's knot. The opening skree in "Come Get It" is a feedback tone that thrillingly holds its ground for the entire first verse; the rest of the song is a chiropractor's dream, all head-nodding and pelvis-thrusting big beats buoying repetitive, mesmerizing riffs that are difficult if not impossible to resist. The song's more radio-ready cousin is a sparkling number called "Anthem for a Falling Star," nakedly fabulous pop for people who really can't stand all those smiling pop stars. Lyrics offer plenty of "can't take this pain" and "this pain is killing me" and "can't explain the way I feel inside." But Skinlab plays with a conviction and intensity bands like P.O.D. and Papa Roach couldn't even fake well. Skinlab exemplifies a thing somewhat bigger than the tropes to which nü metal's marketers routinely reduce it. In short, these guys are worth watching.

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John Darnielle

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