Senior Year, 2000: Back To School, Mini Maggits
by Justin Farrar | July 10, 2012
The year 2000... it's a year whose significance has been etched in hindsight. It's the year before 9-11 radically, violently rewrote world history. But if we could peel back the past 11 years (something many of us would prefer to do, I bet), we'd find a wholly different significance. When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000, the world let out a massive, collective sigh. The "Y2K" scenario that had just about everybody on the planet totally freaked out for the previous 12 months didn't happen. Our fully automated, computerized, global technocracy was still purring, still ticking, still dominating humanity. And so, 2000 was not a year to celebrate change, but rather business as usual.
For Chino Moreno and his fellow Deftones, business as usual meant exploring rock's most timeless theme: teenage angst. At least, that's what "Pink Maggit" -- also released in altered form as "Back to School (Mini Maggit)" -- seems to be about. Filtering their nu-metal muscle through what can only be described as "Smashing Pumpkins drowning in cough syrup," the group unleashed one of the most morosely cryptic anthems in the history of pop. Swathed in ominous reverb, Moreno croaks and groans about setting someone (a girlfriend?) on fire, about a "whore" whom he's really into and, over and over, about how "back in school, we are the leaders of all." Weird, dark and uncomfortable for sure.
Queens of the Stone Age, meanwhile, touched on one of rock's other timeless anthems: drug-fueled decadence. Though rock-as-youth-rebellion was killed off some time in the '70s, "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" surely freaked out those parents who took the time to decipher Josh Homme's mush-mouth mantra: "Nicotine, valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol... co-co-co-co-co-cocaine." This has nothing at all to do with the hippies' embrace of consciousness expansion through better chemistry; rather, it's an ode to consuming as many drugs as possible until all your senses grind to a halt.
Eminem also got into the anthem business with "The Real Slim Shady," which just might've been the best song of the year. Bleeding angst (and a truly malicious sense of irreverence), Em nailed the teenage condition by railing against just about everything, including a world stained with rampant exploitation, cheap imitation and brainless distraction. He closes with a line that just about any teenage head could find meaning in: "And be proud to be outta your mind and outta control."
"Outta control" sums up a lot of the other hard rock and hip-hop that dominated 2000. It's amazing just how brash, perverse and good the year's hits really were. There was Linkin Park's "One Step Closer" ("Shut up when I'm talking to you!"), Three 6 Mafia's "Sippin' on Some Syrup" ("Nyquil will slow me down, something that keep me easy") and, of course, Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'" (can't really quote this one, it's so offensive).
At first blush, Radiohead's "Optimistic" feels like a sonic respite, but as with the rest of Kid A (which debuted at No. 1 in the States that year), it floats through a cloud of despair and melancholy, particularly when Thom Yorke weeps, "Flies are buzzing 'round my head/ Vultures circling the dead/ Picking up every last crumb."
Who knows? Maybe the music of 2000, with all its gnarly vibes and unsettling themes, was subconsciously warning America's youth of a future it had no idea was lurking right around the corner. Not only that, but: You better enjoy business as usual, because it's about to end... forever.