Sunday, August 23, 2020

Rock and Roll Always Forgets (2011)

Chuck Eddy's third book—and his fourth for that matter, which came a few years later—is a collection of published pieces from the '80s, '90s, and forward, and finds him in a more professional mood. He has sanded away some of the sharp edges and elbows (there's less name-calling) and he might even feel more confident advocating for the things he likes, like Bob Seger, Kid Rock, Def Leppard, etc. We always knew he was a good writer, prolific with the hot takes and willing to bend a baked pretzel into shape whatever it takes, but he also turned out to be a pretty good journalist as well. I understand he objects to being called contrarian or iconoclastic. Who wouldn't? The implications of his basic argument remain mostly true, consistent from the first two books and articulated better all the time: social forces guide music taste more than we like to admit. He pushes back, by instinct, against all conventional wisdom. That's his thing. He's like a photograph negative. If everyone else sees white, he shows black. He's right too, in a way—his arguments hold up, even when he's off something I like or talking up something I don't. He's not afraid to take a stand. I'm still often not in synch with his taste but that's all right, isn't it? I appreciate at least his appreciation of Eminem—well, the truth is Eddy is a bit of a Detroit and/or Michigan homer, and the truth is also that you could do a lot worse than that for bias. His writing is always straightforward and illuminating, he can spin up a good feature story, and it's possible there is more music that I actually want to chase down in this book than in his first two combined, which means it might be the best at the basic job of music journalist. The next one, Terminated for Reasons of Taste, is a pretty good roundup as well.

In case the library is closed due to pandemic. And go get Terminated for Reasons of Taste while you're at it.


  1. Only place I strikingly differ w/ you here is on how much music you get from the books. I got way way more out of the first two than the last two. In the last two I admire his writing, reporting, I always learn stuff, but I'm mostly ho-hum about the music. Toby Keith, Eminem, White Stripes, etc. And, yeah, his contrarian-ness is big part of why he's been a music critic Boss since the '80s. It's funny how that annoys him.

  2. I mean, funny that he's contrarian ab being characterized as contrarian.

  3. Yes! But in fairness, speaking as a contrarian myself, it's not entirely a choice we deliberately make. The lockstep itself, even when I'm in harmony with it, too often annoys.