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Quiet dignity or Quiet Riot?

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Did somebody say Anthrax! They rule!

Or is this maybe the wrong time to loudly and proudly proclaim my fandom of one of the best heavy metal/rap fusion bands of the ’80s and ’90s?

(To tell you the truth, I listened to this group for years before I even knew Anthrax was a disease – I thought it was the mid-section of an insect, but that turned about to be the thorax.)

Although Anthrax has had its share of radio play and released a few videos – in the good ’ol days before boy and girl bands took over the satellites – the band has since slipped into a kind of cult obscurity where only true fans buy their albums and attend their concerts. And that’s enough for Anthrax, because the last thing they’re going to do is sell out their fans.

Suddenly they’re back in the spotlight, and it isn’t to celebrate the reissue of the Sound of White Noise album and their Winter 2002 tour with Judas Priest.

Cases of anthrax (the disease) have been reported in the U.S., and a number of letters have been found containing anthrax spores that could be fatal if inhaled and not treated in time. There’s even a B.C. connection – a ferry was docked after a cashier discovered a white powdery substance in a roll of coins.

Nobody is yelling the "T" word, yet, but everyone’s thinking it – even Anthrax (the band), who, although they may have offended some delicate sensibilities with their industrial grade of music, have never hurt anyone.

The band, I’m happy to say, is keeping its name, despite the threats and politically correct rhetoric that’s being thrown their way by people who can’t seem to put anything into context.

The band announced this in a letter on the Web site ( www.anthrax.com) , which has probably seen more traffic in the past two weeks than in the past decade.

In the words of vocalist John "White Taco" Bush, drummer Charlie "Martin Brody" Benante, bassist Frank "The Nephew" Bello, and guitarist Scott "Jewy Jewison" Ian:

"In light of current events, we are changing the name of the band to something more friendly, ‘Basket Full Of Puppies’. Actually, just the fact that we are making jokes about our name sucks.

"In the twenty years we've been known as ‘Anthrax’ we never thought the day would come that our name would actually mean what it really means. When I learned about anthrax in my senior year biology class, I thought the name sounded ‘metal.’ Everyone in my neighborhood had a band with an ‘er’ name, like ‘Ripper’ or ‘Deceiver’ or ‘Killers’ and I wanted to be different. ‘Anthrax’ sounded cool, aggressive, and nobody knew what it was. Until a few years ago most people thought we'd made it up. Even our album, ‘Spreading The Disease’ was just a play on the name. We were spreading our music to the masses.

"Before the tragedy of September 11th the only thing scary about Anthrax was our bad hair in the ’80s and the ‘Fistful Of Metal’ album cover. Most people associated the name Anthrax with the band, not the germ. Now in the wake of those events, our name symbolizes fear, paranoia and death. Suddenly our name is not so cool. To be associated with these things we are against is a strange and stressful situation. To us, and to millions of people, it is just a name. We don't want to change the name of the band, not because it would be a pain in the ass, but because we hope that no further negative events will happen and it won't be necessary. We hope and pray that this problem goes away quietly and we all grow old and fat together.

Be safe,

Scott, Charlie, Frank and John

Aka Anthrax"

One of their most popular songs was a collaboration with rap group Public Enemy titled Bring The Noise, the live version of which ended with a call for people everywhere to "don’t believe the hype."

In times like these, however, it’s all about the hype. And people are scared.

Folks who don’t live anywhere near the places that the anthrax disease has turned up are stockpiling antibiotics to combat the disease, afraid that quantities will run out in the event of an epidemic – so much for women and children first! Of course, if it turns out to be a non-event, they can always store the pills in the bomb shelter they built during the cold war, beside the generator and MRE rations they bought during the Y2K scare.

You can’t blame people for freaking out – it’s not an easy thing to live in fear of the unknown, but we’re hardly the first people being asked to keep it together – my grandmother kept a gas mask handy during World War II in case any of the Nazi bombs obliterating her neighbourhood contained lethal gas.

But you can plea for some form of sanity.

I can’t watch a hockey game now without hearing three anthems – Oh Canada, the Stars and Stripes, and now God Bless America for some reason. CNN is actually advertising the sale of car-mountable American flags – and if you order now, you’ll receive a special "God Bless America" flag at no extra charge; all proceeds go to capitalism.

Rather than greeting the threat and mourning our losses with quiet dignity and stoic togetherness, the of display sentimentalism and symbolism has all the class of a Superbowl halftime show.

Two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, I’m watching "Who Wants To Be A Princess," and "Love Cruise."

It’s wrong to have a band named Anthrax, which has been making music for 20 years, but it’s okay to dress women up in skimpy bikinis for the enjoyment of some morally bankrupt Italian prince. Mayor Giuliani and President Bush did tell the public to go on with their daily lives, and this is the crap people would normally be watching. It’s an insult to the bereaved, and to the soldiers putting their necks on the line – is this the way of life they’re fighting for?

But hey, that’s showbiz.

"Don’t believe the hype. You suckers…"

— Andrew Mitchell

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