Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Iron Maiden: Aces High (Go! Buy the Rekkid!)
A couple of firsts today (to cover for the fact that I haven't posted in nearly a week . . .) 1) The first "book review" and 2) The first "guest blogger" my buddy Kenny Shinkel who has a few choice words on Spin writer (and Billy Joel Lover) Chuck Klosterman's first book, Fargo Rock City. The "review" started as an e-mail to me that I had so much fun reading I had to run here. Kenny has said you can send the hate mail/love letters to him here. Finished the Klosterman tonight, thanks very much for lending it to me. I hate to say this, but I don't know that I actually enjoyed it. I guess I'm glad I read it and it did make me laugh, but there were so many things about it that just plain bugged me. Some of it was his dismissive attitude towards other styles of music, some of it was the general sloppiness, and some of it was the overall inanity - like someone writing a book about why the McDLT was THE thing to eat in 1986 and then slagging people who liked Ponderosa (for the record, both suck). It seems to me that if you're going to go out on a limb and write your little heart out about Poison, you'd better be prepared to cut every (and I mean every) musical genre a pretty hefty break. Yes, these bands he loved had tremendous sales and a tremendous impact on countless fans, but so what. In the words of Peter Buck, a '45 is essentially a piece of crap usually purchased by teenagers. Perhaps it was growing up... 1. With an older sibling who was into music 2. In a large metropolitan area 3. With a TV that featured both MuchMusic and the New Music ...But I innately knew that Poison and all those related hairbands sucked donkey cock. Hell, I knew Kiss had jumped the shark after they put out Dynasty (I was made for loving you?!? C'mon) One of my other issues with the book is just how sloppy it is. Essays open on one topic and they just teeter and totter all over the page. I mean it's a fun read, but I have no idea where he's going and by the end of the chapter I feel like I've just finished one of those 45 minute conversations with my father where you suddenly realize you've spent the whole time discussing gas valves. And for a pop culture junkie, he has some strange misses. He cites GNR for their continuing saga/trilogy video with no mention of Richard Marx and his bizarro black and white murder mystery series of videos about Hazard. That's like a Canadian talking about the miracle on ice without ranting over the Russians playing Myshkin. The further you get into the book, the less insight and analysis there is and the more it becomes, "I was a drunk" or "I nearly ripped off the bank." I'm not sure what that has to do with liking a repellant band like Poison or trying to defend Winger. He also has some stunningly contradictory things to say. On page 69 he opens by saying: "The concept of rock music being tied to glamour is incredibly predictable and - in some respects - essential. Except for those Sarah McLachlan-esque idiots who insist they "need" to make music, it's really the only reason anyone gets into rock and roll." Then he writes on page 71 (what's that, 400 words later?) "The ultimate goal for Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Foghat, Uriah Heep, the Clash, Bon Jovi and Sonic Youth was all ultimately the same: They wanted to make music that other people wanted to hear." HUH? I thought glamour was the only reason people got into Rock N' Roll?!? I thought only McLahlan-esque idiots...you get the picture. Three more reasons why Klosterman's wrong about the glamour-rock n' roll relationship: 1. Access to chicks, the lure of money, adulation, ego, and avoiding a day job are all more compelling and realistic than glamour 2. I have a hard time seeing just about anyone I respect in the music industry saying it was glamour that made them...buy their first guitar...sing into the mirror...climb up on stage for the first time...write Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)...aspire to be Mike Reno. 3. The Clash would never wear spandex Ok, I know Chuck grew up in the middle of nowhere. So did you. So did my pal Emma who digs the d-plan, Ani DiFranco and Pavement. So did my in-bred cousins who cashed in on Kiss when Lick it Up was the best that band could do...geography ain't the issue here. For me, and admittedly I could be way off here, I think music fandom comes down to 1.5 things: 1. A visceral response: My year-old daughter is the perfect case - she doesn't have any comprehension of how these bands look, what they symbolize, or even what they're singing about. She just knows when she wants to shake-it. Be it Banghra, the Beasties or Gillian Welch. If she digs it, the head, ass and feet follow. 2 Socio-economics/ peer groups If you're a frat boy in the late 90s, it's Fred Durst. No matter what the visceral response, it aint gonna be Pet Shop Boys and Erasure. If you're a college boy in the mid 90s, it's pavement. Even if you want to shake it to Ace of Bass, it's gotta be something related to Lou Barlow. The music you like says a LOT about you so it better say the right things. Bands have become brands (this may always have been so) and just as there are Honda folks and chevy folks; pepsi drinkers, bud drinkers and single malt scotch men, so it goes with music. If it weren't so, there would be no such thing as a guilty pleasure - we could all rock out to Air Supply, wear our Haircut 100 T-shirts and lead-off our mixed cds with Waiting for a Girl Like You with no fear of being mocked. So, If you're a small-town midwesterner in the 80s, it's likely hairbands that you'll love and defend as that's what gets your toes tapping and it's what your fellow mullet wearing, mouth breathing, right thinking peer group expect. You can write all you want about why bands matter, and believe me they do - I can't hear Pleased to Meet Me, Hatful of Hollow or Rattlesnakes without being transported back some 15 years - and I can't underplay the importance of the albums to my youth (I can't even bite my @*&(!# tongue when my wife pulls my chain about the Clash!). But I honestly believe that 99% of it comes down to demographics/psychographics and toe tapping. One last thing. Klosterman pans Iron Maiden and that just ain't right. When I was in Edmonton this July, I heard Aces High on the radio and sang along with a great big shit-eating grin on my face. Maiden and Motorhead kick ass. Buy Powerslave.