During unending hours in the back of a conversion van and brief respites on land in Canada I read Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City. This book was recommended to me by Nate Scheible during a discussion outside of Parish Hall while waiting for a noise show to start and over a few Commodore Perry IPAs. He found out that I was a metal fan of old and recommended that I read it.
The book’s essence is how glam-metal [bands like Mötley Crüe, Poison and Cinderella] gave Chuck an entrance into the wide world outside of North Dakota. His point is, that no matter how derided glam-metal was, is and probably ever shall be, since it was an important part of the growth of a generation it shouldn’t be. Now, this wasn’t the kind of book I was hoping it would be. I hate glam-metal. To me there is nothing really metal about dudes with with flammable hair nancing about in spandex and singing about banging. That’s fine, but it’s not metal. I’m more of the Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Ozzy fan for first-gen metal and Pantera, Anthrax and others for second-gen. I hate nü-metal, [Korn, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit] and technical-metal noodlers like Yngwie Malmsteen and Mastodon don’t do much for me either.
So basically, like every other metal fan, I’m a huge jackass about what I like.
Chuck’s book is good, although he mentions fly-fishing for walleye, which I think, while not impossible, is utterly ineffective. ANYWAY, there are digressions, tangents, anecdotes and the sorely desired lists and name-drops of random bands to dig for, but mixed in with all of this is some excellently penetrating commentary on both metal itself and its place within the zeitgeist of the 80s and 90s. These are the best parts. The most interesting parts of the book came at the end for me; when he got away from the hair and Axl Rose and started talking about what qualifies a band as metal, what bands are carrying on the metal torch [still, for him, in terms of glam] and how grunge killed it off.
He’s good at putting things in context, giving depth to what appears to be shallowness and rubbing his theories against possible criticisms to see what holds and what tears. He does some straw-manning, but hey, he’s a journalist. The book is often hilarious, as when he lists the kind of women each band likes to fuck, and geekily earnest, as when he lists his favorite metal albums and how much you’d have to pay him to never listen to it again.
One area I think he missed out on was talking about Euro-metal and its continuing massive popularity over there. That’s probably a completely different book though. If you’re even a slight fan of metal, or a fan of 80s glam or somewhat analytical discussions about Tawny Kitaen humping a Corvette, this is the book for you.