Over the last month I’ve flown four times. There’s something innately comforting to me about being in the air, in spite of or maybe even because of my existential preoccupations with the concept of time. It’s soothing to be in such a liminal space where time is completely and utterly yours, with no intrusion from the outside world. There’s a sort of suspended-in-amber quality to being in the air that I haven’t been able to recapture on the bus or train, or god forbid in a waiting room or abandoned mall or whatever image pops up in /r/liminalspace. I find a plane to be my favorite space to listen to music, read, or play games.
Sometimes I read about music. And sometimes I read an old favorite book of rock writing and come away wondering why I felt such an attachment to a writer. Last week I reread Fargo Rock City for the first time since I was, maybe, in freshman year of high school.
Chuck Klosterman was an early favorite of mine. There was something I found very charming about his unapologetic, sometimes even inflammatory embrace of the lowbrow and the irreverent, and willingness to push back against the pretension of the rock critic cognoscenti. In an era where Pitchfork was still in the “letting David Cross satirical articles that were basically indistinguishable from their regular content” phase, Chuck Klosterman’s unabashed fondness for Guns N Roses without sacrificing any of his intellectual ferocity felt like a breath of fresh air. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs was my introduction to him, and I swiftly gobbled up whatever published work I could find.
Then, for I would say about ten years, I didn’t read anything of his. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a paperback copy of Fargo Rock City in a bookstore while perusing specifically for things to read on a plane during an upcoming trip to see my wife’s parents. Out of a combination of nostalgia and genuine rekindled interest in the subject matter, I scooped it up, for the sake of having a physical Klosterman on my shelf again.
Now, when I say “rekindled interest in the subject matter,” I mean that. Fargo Rock City is Klosterman’s original salvo, a treatise in defense of hair metal that works overtime to find meaning and value in a genre that was for a long time seen as the height of fluff. And I suppose that prompts a confession from me— in the years right before I really got into hardcore, I was listening to hair metal right alongside punk. In retrospect the commonalities between New York Dolls and Twisted Sister are a lot less anomalous, but there was something that felt, for the briefest of moments, genuinely transgressive about Mötley Crüe. It was a solid complement to the cheesy horror movies I was mainlining on late-night-but-still-censored cable channels like TBS and Chiller. (Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan, Critters 4, and Freddy’s Nightmares were in rotation if I recall correctly.)
I rapidly moved on to what I felt was the more intellectual and aggressive form of music with hardcore and its offshoots, but over the last few years of engaging with metal as a whole in a more serious and even-handed way, I’ve also found my residual affection for the hair bands (and, for some reason, Poison in particular) growing more and more, even as I swim deeper into the murky waters of blackened death industrial and whatnot. I think of it as a healthy dynamic, actually, for the same reasons that blink-182, New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, and the Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy all hold a place in my heart. There can be no meaningful darkness without light. Things that are darker and more serious are typically considered more “adult” and “intellectual” pursuits but that is a fallacy. Things that are frivolous and silly and dumb can also be smart and important and meaningful. The spectrum of worth and human emotion is rich enough to accommodate for all of these contradictions, because they aren’t really contradictions. To use some examples, Morbid Angel and Blood Brothers might be more important to me than Good Charlotte and All Time Low, but Pokémon is way more important to me than Dark Souls could ever be. If that makes sense.
Tune in next time for a spirited argument as to why Integrity are very likely the best hardcore band of the 90s, if not of all time. And yes, I am fully aware that being one of those people who is super into Integrity is basically the hardcore kid equivalent of being a severe weeaboo. (Hardcore kids who are obsessively into Japanese hardcore are more accurately described as “cokeheads.” David, if you’re reading this, you’re the exception that proves the rule.)
Love you lovelies.
To read this post in its entirety, please consider contributing to my Patreon, or hit up my Venmo at xyoudontneedmapsx if you’d prefer to show your support with a one-time donation! If you’re interested in a band bio or some freelance writing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to hash out the details. If you’d just like to keep up with my dumb life, feel free to follow me on Instagram @ youdontneedmaps. Thank you so much for reading.
Resonating here . 1980s Reconciling by love of unit pride and trouble . Chalk and cheese can exist in the space heartspace