Saturday, January 19, 2013

Metallica, "Don't Tread on Me"

President Obama's official inauguration playlist has been released, and most of it is garbage. Outside of the obvious Stevie Wonder and Beyoncé choices, it's the usual hodgepodge of blander-than-bland pop hits strategically picked to offend the least amount of people. Barack may have won the election, but whoever put this playlist together obviously still thinks he has to pander.

Unlike Congress, I won't criticize the President's actions unless I have a better idea. Here it is.

"Don't Tread on Me" is a patchwork quilt of American proverbs, taking its title from the Culpeper Minutemen, lifting its first eight bars from Leonard Bernstein's "America" and depicting our country as the rattlesnake on the Gadsden flag, which is also honored on the cover of the Black Album. "Liberty or death, what we so proudly hail...To secure peace is to prepare for war..." Hetfield must have had an ninth-grade history paper sitting around.

Upon its release, "Don't Tread on Me" earned a minor backlash for its staccato, two-note riffing and a simple-minded view of patriotism, heard as a disappointment for a band that had confronted social injustice, warmongering and anti-environmentalism on ...And Justice for All. "We got people calling us 'jingoistic,'" Kirk Hammett told Rolling Stone. "That was definitely a word we had to look up." Perhaps unsurprisingly, the band doesn't like this song, never playing it live until their Black Album anniversary shows in 2012.

But "Don't Tread on Me" is exactly the kind of underappreciated anthem that deserves a comeback on the inauguration playlist. What better way to celebrate the inauguration of a President than with a patriotic hymn from a band that has been independent-minded enough to dissent and loyal enough to cheer on separate occasions? Plus, it would help take the Gadsden motto back from the Tea Partiers.

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