When you think of Megadeth what great albums come into mind? “Peace Sells”? “Rust in Peace”? “Killing Is My Business”? Well, what about this album? No? Why?
For some reason, “So Far, So Good… So What!” has received the unfortunate treatment of being sandwiched between the two albums that are considered Megadeth’s best, “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” (1986) and “Rust in Peace (1990).” It’s sad, because this is another great album in Megadeth’s discography.
Now, by no means do I think it is better than those two; this one has its flaws. But I feel this album is worth a listen. Some of their greatest songs are present here, and the musicianship is still great. Chuck Behler and Jeff Young are nowhere near the level of the other Megadeth members, (i.e. Nick Menza and Marty Friedman) but I think the problem was that this was the only time Behler and Young were present. Both members would be fired in 1989 for various reasons (Behler for drug problems and Young for allegedly having an affair with lead singer Dave Mustaine’s girlfriend).
It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if those two were never fired, but as far as I’m concerned, history is fine as it is. Why? Because afterwards we would have never seen the amazing lineup of Mustaine, Menza, Friedman, and David Ellefson (bassist). And of course the release of “Rust in Peace.”
“Set the World Afire” begins with a sample of Ink Spots’ “I Don’t Want to Set the World On Fire.” Very ironic as a sound of an atomic bomb follows and you are injected with a barrage of guitar riffs that intensifies as the song progresses. It’s even more ironic as the lyrics give an apocalyptic vision of the world collapsing from nuclear warfare and leaving “No Survivors.”
I love Mustaine’s vocal performance on this album. His snarls and screams add on to the nihilism in Megadeth’s music that leaves you both unsettled and excited. Going to back to “Set the World Afire,” the climax when Mustaine is screaming “No Survivors! Set the World Afire!” sounds like a demon singing as he starts to growl as the song dies down.
Now the following track is a cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK.” Personally, I’m not that much of a fan of this cover. It doesn’t feel like it adds anything new or interesting compared to the original. It’s pretty much a track that leaves me waiting for the next track come on.
This is one problem I have when listening to this album; some of the tracks and their lyrical themes feel a little out of place as many of the highlights on this album follow an angered and nihilistic outlook on life. Sometimes this album feels a little jagged and noncohesive. Some tracks could easily have been left out.
An example is the track “502” as it has an odd tale of a person driving under the influence and being chased by the police. While this may be a bit of break of the heavy topics, it backs up my earlier pointpoint earlier, especially when compared to the lyrical theme of the track that follows.
“In My Darkest Hour.” One of the most perfect songs I have ever heard in my life. I love the build up this song brings. It starts slow and ends fast. The guitar riffs are memorable, the drums sound like cannons, and Mustaine sounds like he’s in pain and agony when he sings. The lyrics deal with the feelings of loneliness, pain, and depression when being neglected by a lover.
I love how the song signals the fast and chaotic ending. The lead guitar riff that plays after each chord and drum cymbal hit gets me excited as Mustaine sings, “I walk, I walk alone to the Promised Land. There’s a better place for me, but it’s far far away.”
Closing track, “Hook In Mouth” is a stab at the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) and their views on censorship of music. This was a track of its time as the 1980s saw the PMRC form and express their views that met with very negative reception among musicians. The songs brings a simile of the human voice being like a fish who is caught by a hook and unable to do anything about it.
There’s also comparisons to the world found in George Orwell’s “1984.” Mustaine singing that PMRC is acting like the Four Ministries by trying to alter and rewrite popular music (i.e. Parental Advisory stickers) to their personal perference. “Rewrites every story, every poem that ever was. Eliminates incompetence, and those who break the laws. Follow the instructions of the New Way’s Evil Book of Rules. Replacing rights with wrongs, the files and records in the schools.”
I love the acronym Mustaine use for the word Freedom, “F, is for fighting. R, is for red. Ancestors’ blood in battles they’ve shed. E, we elect them. E, we eject them. In the land of the free and the home of the brave. D for your dying. O, your overture. M is for money, you know what that cures. This spells out ‘FREEDOM’, it means nothing to me. As long as there’s our PMRC.”
With “So Far, So Good… So What!”, Megadeth continues to be Megadeth. However, it’s easy to see why this was left out, especially when it’s sandwiched between the band’s greatest albums. But I still come back to this record to particularly play the aforementioned tracks. And for me, that’s what prevents “So Far, So Good… So What!” from being as good the other two. Those albums have a complete album experience where you want to play the whole thing over and over again. With this album, it doesn’t.
If you’re new to Megadeth do look at “Peace Sells” and “Rust in Peace” first before tackling this one. But if you’re already heard Megadeth’s material but haven’t heard this one, go ahead and do so.
Track Picks: “Into the Lungs of Hell”, “Set the World Afire”, “In My Darkest Hour”, and “Hook In Mouth”
Label: Capitol Records