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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Charles, Patron Saint of Rock Criticism

Chuck Klosterman is a poet. Any man who can write a book of nearly 300 pages about hair metal which along the way classifies Rush as Christian rock is a poet pure and simple, a poet the way Eliot and Frost were poets (and certainly more of a poet than, say, Carol Ann Duffy).

Fargo Rock City, children. This is where it's at. If you haven't read it, go out and buy it RIGHT NOW. Even if you think people like Nikki Sixx and Gene Simmons are decadent, untalented man-whores; even if, like me, you hate spending fourteen bucks on a paperback. I mean, I can't stand 99% of hair metal, and I think this book is the best thing since The Awakening, and not just because I've adored Chuck Klosterman's writing since I read a SPIN column detailing his dream band (I would totally listen to Doomed Honeymoon. Lord yes. Give it to me now.), especially since he did write one thing I couldn't stand. That would be the SPIN article about rock star deaths (I mean really, Chuck--you give Kurt Cobain two pages and Bob Stinson a paragraph? Who cares if you don't know anything about him? The Replacements owned Nirvana.)

I'm always a little slow on the uptake as far as new books and new music go (with the exception of On Beauty--that's a good one, too, AND I managed to read it only about a month after it came out); Fargo Rock City was first published in 2001. But no matter. I have read it now and I will read it again, and again and again, until I finally realize that it should be on my non-fiction shelf. Perhaps it's the subject matter of these, as Klosterman puts it, 'coke-addled deities', but the book doesn't read like a rock'n'roll history. No knowing rock-snob writing here, no jokes about Big Star, no impassioned opinion rants about Reagan's Eighties (not that I don't also love Michael Azerrad)...only a detailed, loving tale of the gilded road to hard-rocking, coke-snorting, stripper-banging metal godhead.

All the greats are here: Van Halen, Motley Crue, Yngwie Malmsteen, Quiet Riot, Def Leppard, Guns 'N Roses, Poison, The Scorpions, KISS, Nugent, all the way up to the Big Four of thrash metal and heavy metal's demise in the early 1990s (damn you Kurt Cobain, again!). For metal novices (like meself...since my metallic tastes are limited mainly to the power and prog genres), this book is an encyclopedia; for metalheads, it's a Bible, albeit a Satanic one (ha, ha...I can make knowing rock-snob jokes too). It shows that music can be technically stupid and still manage to affect an entire generation, and that there's nothing wrong with that (I guess hip-hop is still showing that today). It mouths off about rocking out to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin alike, wanting to wear black lipstick because KISS did, lusting after Lita Ford, and doing all this in rural North Dakota. North Dakota, man! Could there be a more kvlt state in the Union? Clearly not.

Furthermore, Fargo Rock City made me wonder--who on Earth was my heavy metal enabler? I mean, for Pete's sake; I'm a mellow Mormon girl from a little island off the East Coast of Florida. When did I start listening to Queensryche? When did I even hear the name 'Queensryche'? When did I learn how to pronounce 'Queensryche' correctly? And Strapping Young Lad? Opeth? Opeth does not exist in Merritt Island, FL; Merritt Island, FL, is for people who like Kenny Chesney and Vanessa Carlton. Who was it that started me on my path to tinnitus? Klosterman blames his older brother, which is only natural, but I don't have an older brother. I only have an older sister, and she's into Euro-trash and The Velvet Underground.

Whoever it was that tipped off my long strange trip (if I may mix genres), bless you. I'll buy you a copy of Fargo Rock City as a thank-you gift.
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