Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Another Post About Hair Metal or Fargo Rock City

A couple years back I read Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs. While I liked it, I didn’t love it. It was well written, clever and filled with lots of essays and cultural critiques. It should have been right up my alley, but like I say, I didn’t love it. Having just read Klosterman’s ode to his metallic youth, Fargo Rock City, I think I now know why I was lukewarm on Sex, Drugs. Klosterman’s formative cultural moment was hearing the first Motley Crue record. 80s Glam Metal was his first love. This is a guy who loves being one of the guys. This is a slightly different vantage than someone whose formative moments might be considered “out of step with the world”. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s a different compass setting for looking at the world of pop culture. I somehow think that when reading pop culture ruminations, there’s an inherent advantage in knowing where your author is coming from. When reading Sex, Drugs, I just didn’t know my author.

At a friend’s urging I picked up Fargo Rock City and I can’t begin to tell you how awesome I think this book is. In short, Fargo Rock City ROCKS. It’s the product of a balls-to-the-walls, glam metal super fan. It brims with passion and champions metal of the glam, pop and hair variety. In other words, it champions music that people who take music seriously loathe, lampoon and scoff at. Klosterman knows this and gladly puts his street cred on the line, defending the music he loves. He unapologetically loves The Crue and is willing to discuss it with the seriousness others have discussed more high-falutin musicians like Robert Johnson, Patti Smith and the Minutemen. The book is an unapologetic, exhaustive examination of metal and gives serious thought to the likes of LA Guns, Skid Row, Whitesnake, Ratt, Faster Pussycat, Warrant and on and on. What do they mean to Chuck? How do they fit into the broader popular culture? All this and more will be answered in this metallic tome.

Like any excellent book on pop culture you don’t need to be a fan of these bands to like the writing. Klosterman is a grade A wit. This book is damn hysterical with a constant barrage of laugh out loud moments.

In many respects this book would make a great companion piece to Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life, which documents the rise of the 80s indie rock scene. Ultimately this is this scene that kills off glam metal and in a way the two scenes become inextricably linked. Both books also capture what it’s like to be passionate about music that is disregarded by so many. Indie rock never had many fans. Glam metal had lots of fans but no critical acclaim. Different sides of the same coin perhaps.

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