Friday, May 27, 2011

Fargo Rock City

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Fargo Rock City (Scribner, 2001).



Chuck Klosterman is only about six months younger than me, but he sure liked heavy metal more than I did. I won't try and hide it; I was totally a middle school metal maniac at the same time that he was. Quiet Riot, Iron Maiden, makeup-free KISS, they were all awesome for a few months there. I'm not sure what happened next; I don't know that I bought any music at all in the eighth or most of the ninth grade, and then I was a hippie and I could probably still tear the shit out of "Incense and Peppermints" at karaoke, assuming that you could ever find anything as unlikely as "Incense and Peppermints" at a karaoke bar.

Hell, even when I was a-warbling in karaoke bars, awfully, I couldn't even find "Wichita Lineman."

ANYWAY, while I lost interest in glam metal, and spent my high school years wishing MTV would play the Bunnymen or New Order just a third as much as fucking "Sweet Child of Mine," Klosterman never gave up on his retarded obsession with glammy hair metal, no matter how ridiculous it got. Mixing memoir and celebratory history, Fargo Rock City dissects the fun of growing up with such a singular hobby, and, with a damn-the-torpedoes sense of not caring how uncool his favorite music is, he just talks about it, intelligently, wittily, and at great length. It's a blast.

The thing that impresses me most about Klosterman's writing is his ability to accurately nail archetypes down to the last detail. Speaking about Def Leppard, he correctly notes that their fan base consisted of more girls than any other metal group's fan base, and all those girls were named Danielle and wore Espirit tank tops. This is true. She was in your fifth period English lit class.

I learned a lot from this book, none of it really important, but most of it amusing. All that I knew about Guns N Roses' Use Your Illusion duo-LPs is that the idiots released both records the same day, thereby denying one of them the # 1 slot on Billboard. Releasing the second one seven days later would have been brilliant marketing. Apparently, GNR did something noteworthy and ridiculous with the videos from the LPs, which were meant to form a twenty-minute mini-movie. At least they would have, had Axl Rose and Stephanie Seymour not split up after they shot a couple of them, meaning that she had to be replaced by some other supermodel in the last video and it stopped making sense. That is so weird, but, apparently, par for the course where anything about Axl Rose is concerned.

Klosterman's writing might not be for everybody - Mark Ames' legendary takedown of him is both brutal and mostly accurate - but I smiled my way through this and only ended up with a single song maddeningly stuck in my head - Def Leppard's "Photograph," which, sadly, I'm probably going to have to buy off iTunes now, even if that mean Danielle in fifth period wouldn't let me copy her lit notes. Recommended.

1 comment:

mpceccato said...

"Speaking about Def Leppard, he correctly notes that their fan base consisted of more girls than any other metal group's fan base, and all those girls were named Danielle and wore Espirit tank tops. This is true. She was in your fifth period English lit class."

Actually, mine was in my first period Spanish class. But the observation is very accurate.