When Has-Beens Attack!!.

I already sorta wrote this article before, but that website got shut down, so I'm gonna take another crack at it from a new angle.

I just got done writing about Public Enemy's status in this modern age of Club Rap; then I went and listened to the new album.

There's something to be said for when a band - whose best days are long behind them - releases new material. I'm pretty sure that something would be closely associated with the word 'pathetic'. Sure, I'm talking about Public Enemy and Megadeth, but I'm also talking about Smashing Pumpkins and Aerosmith and Nine Inch Nails.

I guess 'pathetic' is a tad off the mark, because no matter the outfit, if you're a fan of their past glories, then you're always holding out more hope than you probably should that their new stuff will harken to those days while ultimately adding to their overall legacy. Ultimately, they always do harken back, but in a way that makes you wish you were listening to "Siamese Dream" right now as opposed to "Zeitgeist". In that case, I guess the word 'pathetic' would be used to describe the hopeful hardcore fans. Anyway, there's generally more hope for a band who's taken a few years off - like the Smashing Pumpkins - than a band who's still chugging along and steadily getting worse - like Weezer.

So, you're saying I shouldn't get my hopes up for the new Guns N' Roses album that's probably never going to be released anyway?

That's exactly what I'm saying. The better the band at their zenith, the greater the disappointment when you listen to their new stuff 20 years later.

Now, I won't say "How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul??" is utter trash. The leadoff single - "Harder Than You Think" - stands up strong against the best rap music has to offer today. Sure, Chuck D sounds his age - he's not that youthful militant he was in '91 - but Flavor Flav is his same old firecracker self, a genuine pleasure that almost makes me forget he's now VH1's resident Cousin Tom. The album as a whole rocks harder than I remember from their classic stuff (except for the Anthrax collaboration), but that's not necessarily an asset or a detriment.

Rap-Rock from an actual Rap standpoint (as opposed to all those white rockers pseudo-rapping; you know who you are Linkin Park) really hasn't taken off outside the occasional remarkable single; Run DMC's cover of "Walk This Way" and Cypress Hill's "Rock Superstar" come immediately to mind. What RAP-Rock has done, really, is make rap music more palatable to a white audience; it achieved this in the late 80s and since then hasn't really evolved except from the occasional Roots or Dilated Peoples song. Therefore, what Public Enemy is doing here really doesn't break down any walls; it kinda meanders across the border - gingerly stepping over the rubble - not really knowing where it's going or why it's there.

As a consummate underdog rooter, I kinda feel for Public Enemy; they're shouting into a hurricane of indifference with this record. Nevertheless, I respect them as artists for not going the Santana route of having a guest sit in on every track; those are just self-serving Remember When albums that bring nothing pertinently new to the table. Run DMC did this in the late 90s to try and revive their fledgling careers, but all it did was convince the world that they're really unnecessary to where rap music's headed.

But, when you get to a point in your career that Public Enemy, Smashing Pumpkins, Aerosmith, and the rest are in, you're no longer concerned so much with record sales. You're financially independent (unless you're an MC Hammer with your money), you've got your hardcore fanbase not going anywhere, and you're just making music for the love of the art. Nobody's ASKING for a new Megadeth album or live DVD, but there's enough holdover fans to keep them somewhat viable in the market. And you never know when a new hit single might spur an all-out revival. Hell, the movie Wayne's World used Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in its soundtrack and it went on to return to the top of the U.S. singles charts for the first time since the late 60s.

The point is, the Steely Dans, the Eagles', the Stings and the Robert Plants of the world are never going to stop making new albums, no matter how irrelevant they are - after all, fans who pay exorbitant prices to see them live will need opportunities to go to the bathroom. What we fans need to realize is that anything they put out now will always pale in comparison to that which saw light in their heyday; but that by no means ... means that you should automatically discard what they're trying to convey. After all, aging millionaires have something to say too