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Chuck Klosterman – Fargo Rock City

This is the story of Chuck Klosterman, a small-town guy who, after discovering his older brother’s Motley Crüe tape as a kid, begins a journey into heavy metal (and, frankly, hair metal) that has continued right into his adult life. It’s written with self-deprecating humour, cultural awareness and a ton of insight into the music itself.

I had a great time reading this book, even laughing out loud at several points, which I wasn’t expecting to have happen. Sure, he’s just some guy who has grown up to become a journalist and who has now actually met a lot of his heroes for interviews, but isn’t he also just some guy who likes KISS and Ratt, ranting about how glam metal is the best music in the world? Well, yes to both. And that’s OK, because it’s a little-appreciated genre these days except, apparently, in strip clubs and in nostalgic music collections like his.

But who doesn’t remember being excited when Use Your Illusion I and II were released, maybe envying friends who got their copies before you did, listening to every song over and over? Hm. OK, well maybe you didn’t. But I know I did. I was never into that kind of music (at the time I was mostly a jazz kid) as much as Klosterman was/is, but I sure had my moments. Because of this, I found the book to be highly enjoyable, especially when he mentions some bands I’d completely forgotten about, like Danger Danger. Whoa, that takes me back!

And since my brain was fired up with this nostalgia, I even remembered a band he neglected to mention (I’m sure there were zillions, but still). I recalled sitting on my front porch floor with my boom box. I was no more than ten or eleven years old, and I had my brand new Kick Axe tape from Columbia House Tape Club blasting away. I’m sure my mother wondered what she’d done wrong to let this noise into her house. I couldn’t even tell you what I was thinking about at the time, but I’ll bet I thought I was bad-ass.

It’s a powerful book, indeed, that can turn the reader inwards to find their own experiences like the author’s. And that’s why I’d recommend this book to you, even if you’re not a fan of metal. It’s funny, smart, wide-eyed and unabashedly in love with the music. You’ll laugh, you’ll maybe learn something new, and you’ll come away with a new appreciation of a musical style that has always gotten a bum rap from the keepers of the status quo because they’ve never grasped that the light they claim to be reaching for must always have a dark to balance it. Even if that ‘darkness’ is merely men wearing make-up.

Just don’t break out the spandex. Please.

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