Speaking of black metal, Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of Living Colour’s Stain. I’m admittedly not a huge fan of the band, as their records are wildly disjointed. They have a soul singer for a vocalist (Corey Glover), Ornette Coleman-meets-Eddie Van Halen for a guitarist (Vernon Reid), and an avant-funk rhythm section (Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish/Muzz Skillings), with songs that range from reggae and afro-pop to full-on metal.
But Stain is by far my favorite Living Colour record. It’s their heaviest, darkest, and most focused work. This was perhaps partially due to the departure of Skillings, the bassist on the sunnier first two records (the Living Colour most people know). Wimbish replaced him with an assault of slapping and harmonics; when he and Calhoun launched into phrases, they sounded like exploding shells. Reid had probably been listening to thrash; check out the Megadeth-esque riff at 2:15 in “Go Away” and the frantic riffing in “This Little Pig.” Glover, too, was pissed off and alienated – see titles like “Go Away,” “Mind Your Own Business,” and “Auslander.”
Yet things aren’t all black, so to speak. Despite its lyrics (“All I have to feel is my loneliness / Nothing in the attic except an empty chest”), “Nothingness” has lush, ’80s-esque synths. “WTFF” could have been a Public Enemy instrumental. As an ode to bisexuality, “Bi” beat Blur’s “Girls & Boys” by a year: “My lover told me, well, that she’s bi / I wanted to scream, there were tears in my eyes / She said, baby, baby, don’t you cry / ‘Cause the one I am with, you’ve been seeing on the side.” Some very straight white boys and I covered “Bi” at a high school battle of the bands. You had to have been there.