Livin' la Vida Loca

Going back to his early 80s stint in Metallica, Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine has written some great songs, but “Breadline” from the new album Risk may be the best one yet. It starts with just a thick, lovely guitar figure as Mustaine lets out a raspy wail: “Ain’t got no job/ Ain’t got no smoke / Ain’t got no car / This life’s a joke.” In come the drums, and it seems we’re off on a typical Megadeth journey in defense of some kid forced into life on the streets.

 

But it turns out that our hero is a downsized middle manager (“Used to call the shots / Now he can’t connect the dots / He’s a mover and a shaker / Getting closer to his maker”). Mustaine has written what may be the first song to deal with the reality that the fastest-growing segment of the poor in America is now the discarded white collar worker.

 

After the bridge, the slight edge of sympathy in Mustaine’s voice turns to a gleeful snarl as he begins to see his no-collar man’s plight as revenge for the years of abuse Mustaine and his audience have suffered from supervisors at the shit jobs they’ve worked. “He’s dancin’ on the breadline!” Mustaine gloats. “Watch him dance!”

 

There’s another twist at the end of the song. After Mustaine happily shouts “He ain’t got nothing!” the band drops out, giving way to a siren pulsing in the distance and ominous throbbing bass sounds. Now we’re looking into the abyss of homelessness and we wonder if the singer sees his own future there and regrets enjoying someone else’s misery. I know I do. This isn’t funny anymore.

 

 

Rock & Rap Confidential / 1999