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Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Fargo Rock City", did 80s heavy metal's matter?

Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural Nörth Daköta 
Chuck Klosterman

The things we do for love... like reading this book. Just kidding. I'm too obsessed with music not to admit I was really curious about Klosterman's attempt to defend the indefensible (in my opinion). Hair metal, heavy metal, 80's hard rock: did it matter? So when my girlfriend (confessed fan of this style) bought the book and vividly encouraged me to read it... well, I had to.

Don't tell anyone, but for the majority of this "wild ride" I was seriously amused. That has to be credited entirely to the author's brilliant writing skills. I was utterly entertained and laughing at the mixture of personal anecdotes, detailed account on bands, records, tunes, and the elaborated music theories on the importance of the 80s metal. I will definitely seek out more of his writings.

But not everything works. Or maybe, the problem is Klosterman's level of exposure here. Occasionally, but more times than it would be recommendable, you will find his reasoning attempts truncated by unnecessary, even silly anecdotes, making you miss the point of the argument. In other few cases, the book gets just boring, like the never-ending account of his favourite metal albums (didn't get the "value thing" anyway), the chapter about the "band issue", or directly dubious, like the chapter about sexism on heavy metal.

One can easily feel related to the book and understand Klosterman's fierce opinions. I did. He bursts with passion on a subject that vividly matters to him. Just like a would do with regards to alternative music. Arrogance is just around the corner, or is just a matter of interpretation or interest on the topic. At the end, nobody can argue his reasoning. Did 80s metal matter? Its obvious that it did for many many people. Like himBut he (in my opinion, of course) cannot defend the "quality argument".

Like Klosterman's, I do have my own "teenager stories" with heavy metal. On the book, he makes himself look like the "victim", as fans of 80s heavy metal now seem obliged to constantly justify themselves for what they like (or liked). But I do remember the musical isolation (heavy metal fans have a strong sense of community) during high school, as I was the one saying Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" was simply boring, or that Axl Rose's voice was extremely annoying, or that I didn't need an everlasting Slash solo in every single song. Yes
, I have always been a hater of heavy metal. My guitar hero will always be The Edge. I will always prefer "Country Feedback" outro than, let's say, "Stairway to Heaven". Lyrics will always matter to me (and that makes metal look reaaaally bad, at least as bad and/or ridiculous as Tolkien). I will never get how someone who is mentally healthy can take Van Halen's "Jump" seriously. Or that playing faster or louder means playing better (I had this sort of reasoning with bands like Manowar). Or that can consider Bon Jovi's metal (or simply worth listening).

To me, hair metal was plain silly, and therefore could only be taken as (a silly) amusement, one that was recreated and I would add, tributed, by "This Is Spinal Tap". But I cannot consider it seriously now, as the majority of people do. Klosterman arguments end saying that the music you loved when you were a teenager is the music that matters. I see the point, but I can't agree with him. "My teenage music" was britpop. I still love some few bands and many tunes from that period. But I evolved, and probably only Pulp would be included now among my favourite bands. And there's nothing wrong with evolving. One band brings you to another, then to the next. That's one of the greatness of music. The amount of possibilities, new discoveries and passions while your favourites remain no matter how much times passes. Luckily, it is not a static thing. Music cannot be static.

I would love to read a "Fargo Rock City 2", to see if his opinions have changed over the years. As a matter of fact, did anyone really listened to "
Chinese Democracy"? 

SCORE: 6,5/10

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