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The Decline of Western Civilization Part II, The Metal Years

Today on Network Awesome (warning: video auto-plays!), Heavy Metal Week continues with the classic documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II, The Metal Years. Directed by Penelope Spheeris (who later directed Wayne's World), the film has been bootlegged for decades, and to my knowledge was never released on DVD. Today you can see the whole thing on YouTube.

The documentary features interviews with members of Aerosmith, Kiss, Megadeth, Poison, Motörhead, W.A.S.P, plus interviews with Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper...among others.

Decline is packed full of interviews with major heavy metal stars (Aerosmith, Kiss, Megadeth, Poison, Motörhead, W.A.S.P, plus Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper), as well as wannabe metal stars and metal fans. The most notable interview is the infamous "pool scene" in which W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes guzzles vodka while floating aimlessly in a swimming pool. Holmes declares himself "a full-blown alcoholic" and "a piece of crap" and discusses how he'll probably be dead within a decade, as his mother looks on from the side of the pool. It's a devastating interview that serves as the emotional core of the film, and it comes in the middle of a series of interviews that veer from light to dark with great skill. (Some have claimed that Holmes actually filled the vodka bottles with water -- this seems credible given the amount of liquor he appears to chug -- but regardless, the interview stands as a remarkably poignant moment in the film and it's clear that the man is utterly wasted.) At its heart, Decline is about the disconnect between image and reality -- and the heavy metal image of 1988 covered a series of devastating realities that are slowly disclosed as the film proceeds. As Holmes says: "I don't dig being the person I am."

In addition to the Holmes interview, there's a terrific sequence (starting about 48 minutes in) in which Ozzy Osbourne cooks breakfast and offers surprisingly cogent advice about being a professional musician. The sequence starts with Ozzy cracking a few eggs into a dish, his fingers tattooed and laden with rings, and his pack of Marlboros to the side. Osbourne is honest and clever in the interview, and admits that if he hadn't become a rock star, he'd probably be in prison. He goes on to explain the mistakes he made (both personally and in business), and says: "It's hard bloody work, and you've got to be a businessman. And I'm not a businessman, you know! I'm very fortunate to this day, you know, that my wife is my manager, you know, she knows the business, but I don't know the business side of rock and roll. I don't want to know it, either." The interviews with Alice Cooper and Dave Mustaine are more insightful (though not quite as funny), and it's clear that most of the men who have been in the business for a while have survived through a combination of wits and serious intestinal fortitude.

Warning: this movie is full of expletives, it's rated R, and there are some scenes of scantily clad ladies. As such it's NSFW, but I strongly recommend it for fans of documentary film and/or 80's metal. It is NOT for kids. The actual video is after the jump for all these reasons.

If you enjoy the film and want to know more, check out the A.V. Club interview with Spheeris or Janet Maslin's review from The New York Times, which includes this gem:

In Miss Spheeris's earlier hell-in-a-handbasket documentary, the original "Decline of Western Civilization" about punk rockers, the brainpower quotient was somewhat higher than it is among heavy-metal fans. That's one reason that the new film is both so funny and so sad. For all the amusingly fatuous remarks heard here -- and Miss Spheeris has a great ear for these -- the overriding dimness of most of the fans and musicians is frightening. The women are happy to be exploited, the men avid for new forms of self-destruction, and no one can see an inch beyond tomorrow.

That pretty well sums it up.

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Scientists Analyze the Moods of 90,000 Songs Based on Music and Lyrics
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Based on the first few seconds of a song, the part before the vocalist starts singing, you can judge whether the lyrics are more likely to detail a night of partying or a devastating breakup. The fact that musical structures can evoke certain emotions just as strongly as words can isn't a secret. But scientists now have a better idea of which language gets paired with which chords, according to their paper published in Royal Society Open Science.

For their study, researchers from Indiana University downloaded 90,000 songs from Ultimate Guitar, a site that allows users to upload the lyrics and chords from popular songs for musicians to reference. Next, they pulled data from labMT, which crowd-sources the emotional valence (positive and negative connotations) of words. They referred to the music recognition site Gracenote to determine where and when each song was produced.

Their new method for analyzing the relationship between music and lyrics confirmed long-held knowledge: that minor chords are associated with sad feelings and major chords with happy ones. Words with a negative valence, like "pain," "die," and "lost," are all more likely to fall on the minor side of the spectrum.

But outside of major chords, the researchers found that high-valence words tend to show up in a surprising place: seventh chords. These chords contain four notes at a time and can be played in both the major and minor keys. The lyrics associated with these chords are positive all around, but their mood varies slightly depending on the type of seventh. Dominant seventh chords, for example, are often paired with terms of endearment, like "baby", or "sweet." With minor seventh chords, the words "life" and "god" are overrepresented.

Using their data, the researchers also looked at how lyric and chord valence differs between genres, regions, and eras. Sixties rock ranks highest in terms of positivity while punk and metal occupy the bottom slots. As for geography, Scandinavia (think Norwegian death metal) produces the dreariest music while songs from Asia (like K-Pop) are the happiest. So if you're looking for a song to boost your mood, we suggest digging up some Asian rock music from the 1960s, and make sure it's heavy on the seventh chords.

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Photograph by John Robert Rowlands. © John Robert Rowlands
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Take a Sneak Peek at the Brooklyn Museum's Upcoming David Bowie Exhibition
Photograph by John Robert Rowlands. © John Robert Rowlands
Photograph by John Robert Rowlands. © John Robert Rowlands

David Bowie was born in London, and spent his final years in New York. Which makes it fitting that an acclaimed traveling retrospective of the rocker’s career will end at the Brooklyn Museum in 2018, five years after it first kicked off at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

Following a whirlwind global tour, “David Bowie is” will debut at the Brooklyn Museum on March 2, 2018, and run until July 15, 2018. Curated by the V&A, it features around 400 objects from the singer’s archives, including stage costumes, handwritten lyrics, photographs, set designs, and Bowie’s very own instruments.

Together, these items trace Bowie’s evolution as a performer, and provide new insights into “the creative process of an artist whose sustained reinventions, innovative collaborations, and bold characterizations revolutionized the way we see music, inspiring people to shape their own identities while challenging social traditions,” according to the Brooklyn Museum.

“David Bowie is” has received nearly 2 million visitors since it left the V&A in 2013. Due to its overwhelming popularity, the show is a timed ticketed exhibition, with priority access reserved for Brooklyn Museum members and certain ticket holders.

Tickets are on sale now, but you can take a sneak peek at some artifacts from "David Bowie is" below.

Photograph from the David Bowie album cover shoot for "Aladdin Sane, 1973

Photograph from the album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane, 1973

Photograph by Brian Duffy. Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive

Striped body suit worn by David Bowie during his "Aladdin Sane" tour in 1973

Striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour, 1973. Design by Kansai Yamamoto 

Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita © Sukita/The David Bowie Archive

Cut up lyrics for "Blackout" from David Bowie's album Heroes, 1977

Cut up lyrics for "Blackout" from Heroes, 1977

Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

Original lyrics for “Ziggy Stardust,” by David Bowie, 1972
Original lyrics for “Ziggy Stardust,” by David Bowie, 1972
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

A 1974 Terry O'Neill photograph of musician David Bowie with William Burroughs.
David Bowie with William Burroughs, February 1974. Photograph by Terry O'Neill with color by David Bowie.
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

Original photography for David Bowie's 1997 "Earthling" album cover

Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997

Photograph by Frank W Ockenfels 3. © Frank W Ockenfels 3

Print after a self-portrait by David Bowie, 1978
Print after a self-portrait by David Bowie, 1978
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

One of David Bowie's acoustic guitars from the “Space Oddity” era, 1969

Acoustic guitar from the Space Oddity era, 1969

Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

An asymmetric knitted bodysuit designed by Kansai Yamamoto for musician David Bowie's 1973 "Aladdin Sane" tour.

Asymmetric knitted bodysuit, 1973. Designed by Kansai Yamamoto for the Aladdin Sane tour.

Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

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