Fargo Rock City

I need to drink with Chuck Klosterman. I've never met him, though I think he's a friend of a friend of a friend of mine. (All of us from North Dakota really do know each other, y'know.) Klosterman and I can meet for beers at the CC Club in Minneapolis, Duffy's in Fargo, or the Double Olive in Akron. It don't matter where to me, just so long as the beer is cold and cheap, there aren't too many windows, and they have a jukebox.

You see, I wanna drink with Klosterman so's we can talk about his book, Fargo Rock City, which just came out. I want to toast this irreverent tome on the heavy metal he grew up listening to in rural North Dakota during the eighties. Although it's enough for me that he stepped up to the plate and discussed a much-dismissed subject, it's also icing on the cake that somebody in their twenties got a rock book published. Because I was getting exhausted trying to like that Richard Meltzer anthology.

Klosterman brings up a lot of things I'd forgotten, like the old "no keyboards" argument among metal fans. (Metal fans forget when advocating the greatness of the genre that pop-metallers Def Leppard and maybe-not-metal-but-certainly-loved-by-metalheads ZZ Top were years ahead of alternative bands in kick-ass uses of keyboards, synths, and programming.) And I'd forgotten about Axl Rose wearing that Junkyard tee-shirt in a photo shoot, which made their entire career. (Dammit - BOTH their albums sucked big-time!!) Speaking of Axl - didya know that he was a big Nirvana fan and wanted them to be the opening act on the Guns n' Roses / Metallica tour? Yeah, I'd forgotten that one also. In one of the book's most insightful chapters, Klosterman addresses Guns n' Roses and why they were such hot shit to small town boys. He brilliantly compares and contrasts Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain. And y'know what? - like Klosterman, Appetite for Destruction gets a lot more play in my apartment than Nevermind.

I'll tell Klosterman how I dug his insights on sex and hard rock - like the whole part about Fugazi being loud and inaudible and therefore not dumb, but your Typical Hair Metal Band is loud and sings about sex and is therefore dumb. Heh heh. I also loved the part about Steve Albini proclaiming his hatred for Led Zeppelin and then going on to produce a Page-Plant album! In the book, Klosterman deadpans: "I will never understand cool people."

After a pitcher or two, I'll end up bringing up my qualms. Like how I wish he would have written more on why he likes the sound of hair metal, because personally I don't care for it that much. I like "real metal" - Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Zep riffs. Hair metal always seemed so lite, so wussy, so REO Journeywagon-like. But then Klosterman quizzes me on my dislike for the subgenre and asks me if there's any of it I do like. I end up saying well I like Ratt's first two albums - in fact I saw 'em in concert in Grand Forks in '85 with openers Bon Jovi, who had yet to unleash Slippery When Wet on the American public and were reduced to namechecking Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes between songs in a bid for credibility ... I also love every Faster Pussycat song I ever heard - especially the hilarious Beasties rip-off "Babylon" and their gloriously trashy cover of "You're So Vain" ... And even though my knee-jerk reaction is to consider Motley Crue dorks, I finally realized a few years back that "Looks That Kill" slays and that Dr. Feelgood has three or four solid songs on it, especially "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)"... and fukkit - if we take a look at the Hair Metal Band Complete List that Klosterman provides on pages 37 and 38, we get into great bands like Guns n' Roses, almost-great ones like Mother Love Bone, and a ton of bands with at least one great song like Skid Row or Bulletboys or Hanoi Rocks.

And don't even get me going on that live Y&T album which my junior-year roommate at UND Mike Ellingson had on tape, it like fucking RULED. And hey - Klosterman writes about going to a UND hockey game drunk and Ellingson and I went to a ton of Sioux games back in the day. Plus Mike was over at my place last winter to watch a Sioux game on TV and I ended up drunk. Shoulda asked him if he still has that Y&T tape, because the album is out of print.

Back to the conversation: I get kinda crabby while waiting for my songs to play on the jukebox, and want to chide Klosterman for his notion that adopting a conservative persona can be cool. I mean geez who's his hero - Alex P. Keaton? But maybe just maybe it was his conservative persona that wrote:

"Black Sabbath killed off the hypocritical, self-righteous
hippie mentality that was poisoning the planet. Pseudo-political
idealism was crushed by pseudo-satanic nihilism, and the world of
rock was a far better place."

Amen to that, and amen to any book that gets me debating with myself over and over. After reading Fargo Rock City, I won't hear hair metal quite the same again. I've spent the last few weeks listening to great songs I'd long forgotten, like Kix's "Red Lite, Green Lite, TNT," "Sleeping My Day Away" by D.A.D., and of course anything by Faster Pussycat. For that, I thank Chuck Klosterman. So let's get one more pitcher, dude - it's on me.

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