Ben’s Brilliant Best Albums of the 1990s. No. 70. System of a Down – System of a Down

I didn’t hear System of  a Down until 2002 and when I did I had something of an epiphany. Maybe two epiphanies. A bipiphany, if you like. As I say, it was 2002, and the last dregs of britpop, stale and flaccid, were blanding up the pop charts with their tiresome dad-shirted nothing. (I don’t see any point in naming many names to reinforce this point, because if you can’t say anything nice etc etc, but it was the year that Oasis released Heathen Chemistry, so you can see how far the scene had fallen).

The afternoon show on Radio 1 was hosted by Mark and Lard. They had risen up the ranks as part of the whole britpop thing and were still getting as much of that sort of sludge on the radio as possible. However, this being Radio 1, they also had to play some stuff they didn’t like. They enjoyed being rude about it. Occasionally that was tiresome. There is no point in trying to argue that The Verve are better than Britney Spears. You are just going to make yourself look stupid.

OK, so, on the day of the duopiphany, they played Toxicity by System of a Down. I loved it. I wanted more. That was epiphany one. The minipiphany. Not really an epiphany as such. Just liking a band. Stick with me…

Then they fell apart laughing at it. Nearly twenty years on I remember them imitating it in a silly voice like a school bully picking on somebody with a stutter or an accent. The song was ridiculous to them (in a way that, say, Gomez or Primal Scream, for some reason, were not) and they jumped on it. Ha Ha Ha, they laughed, what is this rubbish? It doesn’t sound even slightly like The Charlatans later, more boring, albums.

And so came epiphany two, the proper one. Mark and Lard were awful people. Snobbish little boys who were stuck in their ways.

Of course this was a long time ago. People change. I’m sure they are lovely people now. I’m sure they were lovely people then, mostly. They like the music that they like and have no interest in anything different, that’s all. By moving to 6Music they have found a radio station that plays almost exclusively the sort of thing that they like. They’re happy and, because I don’t have to listen to 6Music, I’m happy. Everyone is happy. It’s a story with a happy happy ending of happiness.

So, anyway, System of a Down. It’s a very good album. A kind of dadaist, deconstruction of rock music. Black Flag via Baudrillard, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious, which obviously it does, which is why I said, ‘if that doesn’t sound too pretentious,’ earlier in this sentence (a sentence which has obviously gone on too long now) but anyway that was the joke, the ‘if that doesn’t sound too pretentious,’ bit, was the joke (although now there is a second, even less funny, joke developing about how long the sentence is, and I could and should probably give it a rest now).

You know when people take cars apart and then put them back together again but now the engine doesn’t fit in the bonnet so they have to cut a hole in it but the car is faster and louder than it was when they started? Like that, but with rock music.