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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best I've ever read
Never having had the slightest interest in metal when I was growing up, I had no reason to pick up this book until someone I trusted actually sent me his copy. I've since loaned it to another guy who was into metal in the 80's and 90's. He says it was the first book to articulate -- in eloquent, common style -- what it was that made such a lowly regarded musical form so...
Published on March 14 2004 by Paul Pearson

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars small town bustout
As an '80's kid growing up in rural Indiana, there weren't a lot of ways to imagine the world outside. T.v. was stupid, the movie theater was forty minutes away, and even the local library wasn't all it was cracked up to be. My conduit for fantasies of a faster, more glamorous life was the radio.
It was the same for Mr. Klosterman, as told in Fargo Rock City. The...
Published on July 19 2004 by C M H


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars small town bustout, July 19 2004
By 
C M H (Churubusco, IN) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (Paperback)
As an '80's kid growing up in rural Indiana, there weren't a lot of ways to imagine the world outside. T.v. was stupid, the movie theater was forty minutes away, and even the local library wasn't all it was cracked up to be. My conduit for fantasies of a faster, more glamorous life was the radio.
It was the same for Mr. Klosterman, as told in Fargo Rock City. The glam-metal bands of his time set out a full plate of crashing chords, easy women, and free-flowing booze. He (nor I,)never tasted any of those things personally, but the bands painted a vivid enough picture to focus on a better life in the wide world - after high school, when your mom could no longer dictate your hairstyle.
This is a light read, certainly. Mr. Klosterman's book is meant as no more than a remembrance of things past. Even his dissection of what separates "poseur" bands from the "real rockers" is a throwback - what is easily recognized as rock marketing today could get you in fistfights with your Slayer-loving brethren back in '88.
So scratch your itch for "serious" lit elsewhere - Fargo Rock City is meant for fun, and Mr. Klosterman does an admirable job of providing it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best I've ever read, March 14 2004
This review is from: Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (Paperback)
Never having had the slightest interest in metal when I was growing up, I had no reason to pick up this book until someone I trusted actually sent me his copy. I've since loaned it to another guy who was into metal in the 80's and 90's. He says it was the first book to articulate -- in eloquent, common style -- what it was that made such a lowly regarded musical form so connective with kids, and how not to be ashamed of it as if it were some curio from the past. Having finished Fargo Rock City, I can't understand why anyone would be ashamed of it either. The book starts off as an apologist act, but eventually justifies hair metal alongside any other cultural movement that got "credit" from the critics. Klosterman's book is so persuasive and sure-headed -- even as it describes typical teenage doubt and identity crisis -- that it inspires both admiration and astonishment that nobody has tried it before. And after years of massive resistance on my part, it actually made me want to go and check out Motley Crue and Cinderella. And it's extremely, extremely entertaining. I don't laugh out loud much when reading books; by my count it happened about six times with this one. ANYWAY....
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2.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time or money..., March 10 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (Paperback)
I have a different background and upbringing than Chuck Klosterman, but we are the exact same age. Much of what he wrote about in "Fargo Rock City" I can relate to: replace "Pyromania" with his beloved "Shout at the Devil" album when we were both young lads, and he might as well be describing the musical aspects of my early life. The early '80s were indeed a burgeoning time for up-n-coming metal bands, and Klosterman was correct in pursuing their history from a true metalhead's viewpoint. Laugh if you will, but the arena-ready acts Klosterman describes sold millions of records, and some enjoyed extended careers - 10-15 years, 5-7 albums. (Puddle of Mudd and Bush got nothin' on that!)
ANYWAY, I have a dim take on this book; I didn't enjoy it, which is unfortunate because I was psyched to read it, based on the subject matter and glowing reviews up front (not counting Stephen King's accolade, since King has been known to love the CRAPPIEST of horror novels). Klosterman lays it all on the line. His style is severely rambling - thought to thought, group to group - but that's not even the biggest problem. I mean, I expected a rambling memoir about '80s metal when I bought the book. The author is passionate, no doubt, but passionate about what? I'm not sure even he could answer that question. The guy self-conciously changes his mind or condradicts himself nearly every other sentence, like some teenage girl who's worried what her popular girlfriends will think if she dates the class geek. (You know, like those Molly Ringwold flicks created during the years of Klosterman's discourse.)
Many of the author's observations are absurd, and I suppose that's his right since it's his damned book. Nonetheless, calling Def Leppard "faceless" during their heyday makes no sense to me, and worse, the guy calls half of Nirvana's "Nevermind" album "filler" in a footnote. (Later in the book he praises both Kurt Cobain and "Nevermind" - see what I mean about contradicting himself?) The author claims to love rock music, which I certainly don't doubt, but simultaneously scoffs at CDs in their entirety, saying dics were invented for the masses to simply "skip ahead" to whatever one or two songs they want, then leave behind forever like so much pop culture trash. Such sentiments seem strange to me, given that Klosterman is an accomplished music journalist who has indeed talked with many famous musicians.
I don't know. The author rightly puts down guys like Metallica's James Hetfield, who seemed to him humorless and ugly back when '80s metal was in full throttle, but to me, Chuck Klosterman himself is pretty humorless and mean spirited. I didn't find this book to be funny, despite its opinionated attempts to be so. Towards the end, things get downright depressing - and long-winded. He injects a dull teenage story about his ATM card, then later drinks himself into oblivion. (Yawn.) No one cares about other people who drink themselves into oblivion, especially incoherent writers with baseless, meandering, lame viewpoints that an eighth-grader could formulate. (Maybe Klosterman DID write this in the eighth grade!!) There are interesting takes on later '90s bands, including an astute insight into the mighty and underrated Stone Temple Pilots, but it's way too little, way too late.
Simply being ironic, negative and cynical does not make prose interesting or funny. This book drips with insecurity on every page, and I guess that's what bothers me the most in the final analysis. Dude, if you liked Cinderella, shout it from the mountaintops!! Be proud!! Shout at the devil!!
And with that, I leave you with this:
"For time is on our side/For time is an essence."
"Overture" - Def Leppard, 1980
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4.0 out of 5 stars Remember the '80s?, Feb. 1 2004
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (Paperback)
At the very end of his Midwestern memoir/history of hair metal Klosterman writes: "Very often, I inexplicably embrace the same ideas I just finished railing against: Part of me wants to insist that heavy metal really _is_ stupid. I make fun of the same people who loved the bands I loved (and still do). Social pressure has made me cannibalize my own adolescent experience." This serves as a remarkably self-perceptive summation of the book, and highlights its main weakness. The book veers wildly from hyper-erudite wink-wink, nudge-nudge mockery of hair metal (Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Guns N' Roses, et al), to heartfelt declarations of its centrality of meaning to Klosterman during his teen years. The same tension pervades his next book (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs), and it's a shame that just when it seems he's ready to fully commit to an idea, he spends the next several pages tearing it apart. This makes for often hilarious reading, but is also in a sense cowardly.
That said, it's a remarkably entertaining read, even for non-metal fans like me. It does help, however, to have grown up at the same time as him (graduating high school at the end of the '80s), and my reading was enhanced by memories of one of my closest friends having rather inexplicably been a hair metal fan at the time, right down to the Lita Ford and Skid Row albums. Right from the start, Klosterman links his heavy metal fandom to the utter boredom of his small-town surroundings (despite the book's title, Klosterman grew up in Wyndmere, ND and Fargo has pretty much nothing to do with the story). The fantasy lifestyles of hair metal bands were so far removed from rural life, and so predictably offensive to adult authority figures that there was a natural synergy with bored small town kids. This is hardly earth-shattering analysis, but Klosterman is presenting it from such a direct personal experience that it really resonates far more than any work of musicology or teen sociology could.
The book unravels chronologically, presenting a sort of haphazard history of '80s hair metal. All the bases are covered (from roots influences like Sabbath, Kiss, et al), to hilarious analyses of album covers, videos, and especially lyrics. There's a lot of time devoted to explaining why some bands were considered metal and some weren't (such as the whole question of whether keyboards are an acceptable instrument for a metal band), and why some were classified into subgenres, and what constituted authenticity-all highly reminiscent of my teenage years in the hardcore scene. There's the required list of favorite albums, presented with the twist of listing how many dollars one would have to pay Klosterman to never be able to listen to the album again. Naturally, he addresses the charges of Satanism and suicide advocacy that the mainstream leveled against heavy metal and-as many before him have-utterly demolishes the notion. His take of heavy metal's sexism is that to criticize it is to miss the whole point: it's supposed to be outrageously sexist and offensive. While that may be true, it's also a clever way of sidestepping the issue altogether.
One thing Klosterman does an excellent job of is reminding us (a scant 10-15 years later) how big metal was in the '80s, how bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, and especially Guns N' Roses dominated the charts. He blames the genre's decline on the rise of the "Seattle Sound" and Kurt Cobain's appearance on Headbanger's Ball in particular. Intriguingly, he points out that Axl Rose loved Nirvana and wanted them to open on the Guns 'N Roses / Metallica tour. Throughout the book, the prose is liberally scattered with the pop culture references Klosterman is known for. The danger in this is that he occasionally misses something you would think he'd know (for example, I'm surprised that in his mention of Junkyard he didn't note that their guitarist was in the wildly influential DC hardcore group Minor Threat), and occasionally errs (his definition of straight-edge is inaccurate, which is disappointing from someone who makes a living showing off his pop culture chops). I'm sure metal fans could do a good job tearing the book to shreds, but for the rest of us, Klosterman's done a very credible job of showing why metal was such a big deal to so many people back in the '80s. For all the book's flaws, it's hard to imagine a more readable account of heavy metal.
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5.0 out of 5 stars And I didn't even listen to heavy metal (in public), Nov. 17 2003
By 
Clinton Williamson (Visalia, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (Paperback)
Chuck Klosterman's book of heavy metal criticism is really a book about himself. He reveals, by writing about the music he loved growing up, all the attachments teenagers make to the music they glom onto.
As a teen growing up a few years before Klosterman, I was much more likely to be listening to Whitney Houston and, later, Crowded House and old Fleetwood Mac. (See, you don't have to be a heavy metal / glam metal / hairband fan to be embarrassed about the musical choices made as a teen. Especially Whitney Houston.)
Still, I couldn't deny the power of "We're Not Going to Take It", "Livin' on a Prayer", or "Sweet Child O' Mine". While I looked down my nose at those who had the AC/DC posters in their bedrooms or wore their Rush T-shirts, I can now see that they, like everyone else, were just finding a niche and a passion to make those years bearable.
Klosterman is revealing himself - where he's come from and where he's arrived. The loss of his innocence seems to coincide with the rise of the Seattle sound (or, as he puts it, Sasquatch Rock).
Perhaps my story could be told similarly (except my innocence would coincide with Whitney marrying Bobby Brown).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very funny autobiography/rock criticism book, Sept. 10 2003
By 
E A Glaser (Delft, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (Paperback)
"Fargo Rock City" is an autobiographical look at how the heavy metal bands of the 80's affected the author, Chuck Klosterman, during his youth in North Dakota. It consists of a lot of rock criticism, defense of the heavy metal genre and unsparing self-revelation from the author. It is also very funny throughout. I freely admit that I really enjoyed "Fargo Rock City", but that I am biased because I am the same age as Klosterman. Even though I wasn't a big heavy metal fan in my youth, I'm still familiar with the bands he talks about and picked up most of his cultural references. If you don't remember seminal releases from Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, or Guns N' Roses, groups which are discussed extensively in the book, "Fargo Rock City" may not be that fascinating for you. Nevertheless, you can still enjoy Klosterman's funny stories (e.g. about trying to maintain his hipster credibility while his CD collection contains material from widely mocked hair bands like Poison and Warrant) and his analysis of the bands of his time and how they were slain by their flannel-clad successors.
"Fargo Rock City" is an entertaining counter-argument to the convential rock criticism of 80's metal from a fan who grew up on Ozzy and Crüe. Klosterman is likeable and self-deprecating but also opinionated and knowledgeable -- the right combination for a rock critic. I thoroughly enjoyed "Fargo Rock City".
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4.0 out of 5 stars Chuck is a Rock God -- Honestly, June 17 2003
By 
Robert Wellen (CHICAGO, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (Paperback)
At first, I was a bit disappointed by the book and then I read the epilogue. Why wasn't it more of a memoir? Why was it filled with so much analysis? Then, I realized that isn't really the point of this wonderful book. Klosterman has made me a fan for life. What wins me over his unbashed honesty. I've long held that the lowest critic life form is that of rock critic. Klosterman calls them on their pretension. He hammers away at what I have always believed is that music is important if it touches you. My MP3 collection has Sinatra and Warrant. Who cares who is better, both form the soundtrack to important parts of my life. Klosterman tells some hilarious stories and his takes on music and life is so refereshingly honest that I can't stop smiling. He isn't mean or nasty--just tells it as he sees it. DOn't agree? That's ok. I learned more than I ever imagined about '80s heavy metal (some which I finally realized I liked about 10 years too late) and I suspect I would have gotten more out of the book if I had understood all the references, but I loved what I read anyway. Except for the passage where he compares the Gospels to GNR Lies, this book really does rock. Isn't that the most important thing?
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3.0 out of 5 stars A reformed (?) metalhead looks back on 80s hair metal, July 15 2002
This review is from: Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (Paperback)
The author of Fargo Rock City is only a few years younger than me, and growing up in the 80s when all of my friends were into bands that touted big hair, tight spandex, makeup, and songs about girls, cars and partying, Klosterman's book was a fun flashback to those days. Images of high school keg parties where Motley Crue and Bon Jovi were the party tunes of choice began to flood my brain.
I must admit that other than an Iron Maiden cassette and Def Leppard's "Pyromania," I was not much of a metalhead and usually laughed at those bands' depiction of women and obsession with having the proper look and "attitude" over real musical originality. But again, growing up in the 80s, you couldn't avoid glam metal. It was everywhere, and the author of this book reminds you of its dominance of the charts.
Klosterman really doesn't go into much detail about life in rural North Dakota in the 80s. I think the book's title is misleading and may just be a cheap capitalization of the Coen Bros' film Fargo. The author also does not do a scientific or cultural critique of 80s metal, and that's OK with me. The book is more of a personal memoir of how 80s metal was played out in his adolescence - drinking, going out with friends, working lousy jobs, etc., and I laughed along with his typical teenage antics and interpretations of the whole metal scene - what girls liked which bands, heavy metal magazines, record shopping, etc.
I always wondered what these metalheads did after the depressing nihilism of grunge took over corporate rock in the early 90s. Metal took itself so seriously on the eve of "Smells like Teen Spirit," (think Yngwie J. Malmsteen) could it ever step back and see how silly it really was? As soon as grunge hit the commercial airwaves, hair metal fans went into hiding, denying their desires to copy the look of Rikki Rocket or Sebastian Bach.
Klostermann really waffles with this issue. Writing the book in 2000, he looks at 80s metal like the hipster music writer he now is. Back in 1987, he probably thought Husker Du was a Scandinavian dish served with Lutefisk at Christmastime and would have watched as his friends beat the living vinyl out of any nerdy indie record collector in school. In Fargo Rock City, the author gives the impression that he is older and wiser, and that 80s metal was just another example of his teenage impulsiveness and rash behavior. I sometimes doubted if any praise he gave 80s metal was genuine, and that he was one of the reformed metalheads who was embarrased of his musical tastes in the 80s and was coming clean with it in the present age.
Still, if you grew up in the 80s (or just like to read about a little-mentioned era in rock music), the book will bring you many laughs and some intelligent conversations among friends.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Read At Your Own Risk!!!, June 26 2002
By 
This review is from: Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (Paperback)
I got this book as a gift from a friend who dubbed me the "last heavy metal hero"(ha ha)! Although I know his assumption is way off course, I do know my music, including my share of "metal". The author of this book, for the most part, seems to know his share of metal and music in general but pretty much, this book misses the mark. To start off, Chuck Klosterman contradicts himself bigtime and he spends so much time sarcastically ripping on most of the bands mentioned, that I find it hard to believe he calls himself a fan! Secondly, it appears that he is trying way too hard and this is something I really can't explain, even being a writer myself! It is just the vibe I got when I read this book. Lastly, his facts aren't totally correct! For example, right at the closing of the book, he tells of being at a show in 1996, where Jani Lane of Warrant, asks the crowd to please sit through some "new" songs off the DOG EAT DOG album and then they would play their well known hits. "Sorry Chuck but DOG EAT DOG was released in 1992, which means in 1996 those songs wouldn't be considered new...and DOG EAT DOG happens to be the best album Warrant ever recorded." It would have been the Warrant 96 album! Oh well, I guess it's true that there are just critics and then there are musicians who really "tune in" to music and listen in a different way! Who knows, maybe I am the last heavy metal hero but it's better than being nobody's hero at all!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars sweet metal o mine, March 28 2002
Klosterman's _Fargo Rock City_ is a description of the author's life in the 1980s, growing up as a heavy metal fan in small town America. He loved Motley Crue, Guns n Roses, and Bon Jovi. If you're going to like this book, you better had like those bands too.
Klosterman is without a doubt a good writer. _Fargo Rock City_ made me laugh out loud a few times. It's not only humorous, but it's captivating (at times) and true to the subject. I grew up in the 1980s also, and, while I listened to lots of other pop music (i.e. Talking Heads, The Clash, Go-Go's, etc.) just as much, I definitely had a jones for pop-metal.
Fargo Rock City definitely has a down side, though. Self-indulgent to the point of parody at times, it seems like less a chronicle of 1980s heavy metal fandom than it does the Chuck Klosterman Story. The author spends a good 1/3 of the pages trying to justify his own musical taste. Granted, many of us born between 1963 and 1973 listened to early Van Halen, and look back on it with fondness-- heck, we even turn the radio up when we hear it again. But how many of us would do that with Guns n Roses song "November Rain" ? or something by Poison? Klosterman would. It seems like Klosterman enjoyed most of his 1980s heavy metal because he listened to it all the time, he drank a lot, and there was nothing else to do in his little North Dakota town. No surprise there, but Klosterman comes up with an argument why all of that music was good. Bad idea.
However, Klosterman is the perfect person to write a book about growing up a child of 1980s pop metal. He's smart, witty, and has a hell of a memory. He had given himself an impossible task, though: cast a fond look back Quiet Riot, Bon Jovi, and their peers, AND write about it intelligently, WITHOUT making it look stupid.
And in a sense, you had to be there. By "there" I don't mean North Dakota, but living as a hair-metal fan in the mid- or late 1980s small town America. If _Fargo Rock City_ had been about 1970s rock, I definitely wouldn't have been interested... I doubt many young 20somethings would be interested in reading about the adolescent journey of Klosterman, since they didn't grow up with his music.
Still, this is a funny book, more than worthwhile if you grew up on the likes of Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, and Bon Jovi. Klosterman seems to be a regular guy with a lot of heart, not to mention he's funny.
Rock on, Chuck Klosterman.
ken32
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Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota
Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota by Chuck Klosterman (Paperback - May 1 2002)
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