Saturday, April 09, 2005

For those about to rock

Hello again.
Come sit beside me at the tea circle. No no, don't sit next to That Guy, he hogs all the wee cakes and his breath smells of porridge. Sit next to me. There. More sugar? Yes.

Sorry begin that way, but I'll be making my second consecutive book review post shortly and I guess I felt the need to diffuse the feeling of this being some sort of klatsch or salon. Am I spelling klatch correctly? Please discuss, and for god sake's don't bogart the Earl Gray.

This week, with improved though still as yet not perfect health, I started and finished Chuck Klosterman's "Fargo Rock City," a book that judging by its jacket praise and epilogue became some sort of phenomenon while I was passed out under the coffee table during the early '00s. Nevermind that. I think I remember hearing about this book, but its premise didn't really speak to me. "Heavy metal--no wait, LOVING heavy metal--in a small town, and the effects thereof." Great. Now, if this wasn't clear in my last post (or any post prior), I have been playfully (or not) accused of being an elitist. Many times. I used to argue but now, well, I don't. I have smug little tastes, I'm proud of them, and walking hand in hand with those tastes is a disdain for what's "bad," which in this case will be heavy metal. I do not appreciate Warrent, Winger, Ratt, Poison or any other band from that era, ironically or otherwise. When, as the revisionist vision of critical history goes, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana leaned into those high school bleachers during the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video and effectively performed their chorus on the collective graves of hair metal bands, I danced (or, more appropriately, moshed) on into the night, ringing bells and cackling at their destruction. Metal to me was mindless, stupid, and the soundtrack for every pickup truck date rape I could envision when I was in high school. It was the music of a certain kind of 'cool kid,' at least in Lancaster, California, the defense budget-bloated desert where I went to high school. More to the point, Jon Bon Jovi was having no problems getting laid in 1988. I was, unfortunately, so needless to say his music said nothing to me.

But, there was another side to that story, one that ol' Chuck reminded me of. When I was 15, I listened to Metallica. I listened to Megadeth. I listened to Anthrax, Queensryche, and, yeah, selected tracks from "Appetite for Destruction" (though I never owned it, which I think is what allowed me to distance myself from these heavy metal years so easily. In fact the only 'metal' album I owned was Metallica's "Kill 'Em All," which I eventually sold, presumably a result of my hormones calming down) The rest were all borrowed tapes and mixtapes.

So, sure, I grew out of heavy metal and apparently drifted from there to my high-minded tastes of today. But that was the unexpected treat in Fargo Rock City. I only picked it up because I thought Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs was such a funny, enjoyable read. But here I find that this guy actually had similar tastes as I did when we were about the same age at around the same time. The difference being in some ways didn't move on from it, well, ever. Whether it was the North Dakota setting or not, Klosterman spends a good amount of time explaining his enjoyment of the genre in college and--though confined to two albums--even now. Guns 'N Roses can still be listened to in his household, where they cause me to cringe--if not giggle--when I hear them against my will now.

This did not make me appreciate heavy metal more. I want to get that out right now. The book doesn't really try to convince anyone of anything, but it is a pretty long deconstruction of metal, metal bands and what that all might have been about at that time in our culture. The book doesn't have as much of a memoir to it as I expected--structurally it's similar to Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs in that Klosterman spends much of his time talking in a very witty, high minded manner about very very lowbrow, trashy things. This in and of itself might seem pretentious if the guy wasn't such a damn good writer.

All in all, I enjoyed the book, but most of all I enjoyed being taken back to that time in my life where I knew who King Diamond, Randy Rhodes, Blackie Lawless and Sebastian Bach were. I like to think that I had 'standards' in my metal period--Metallica and Megadeth were welcome. Guns n Roses, sort of, but they honestly had gotten too popular for me to really like. Warrent, Skid Row and Winger were right out, I sussed them out as shit pretty instantaneously. Motley Crue--the object of Klosterman's affection through most of the book--I enjoyed as, maybe, a freshman (reveling in the oddly hysterical karate-themed video of "Too Young to Fall in Love"), but right around when "Home Sweet Home" became a cultural phenomenon (read: Was inescapable on MTV), I figured out their stupidity too (though I enjoyed the later single "Wild Side" with head-bobbing abandon). I eventually moved away from all of it--I don't know if it was simply aging out of it as I alluded to before or if better music just came along. Most likely 13-16 year olds just want something aggressive, whether it's Van Halen, Ratt, Nirvana or Sum 41. I remember just looking for whatever was fastest and loudest at the time.

But regardless, those bands lead you to where you need to go. Granted, my older brother gets most of the credit for introducing me to the great rock of Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and AC/DC, but I had to listen to Soundgarden's "Badmotorfinger" before I could appreciate "Houses for the Holy." Guess which one I listen to more often now?

In short, thanks Chuck Klosterman. I will now raise my fingers in a secret 'devil' salute your way, with "Supernaut" played a bit louder than it needs to be.


Post a Comment

<< Home