Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life
It’s embarrassing to talk about the bands we love. We stumble around looking for the right words, even while luxuriating in hyperbole. Which is why we have to give credit to Steve Almond, who has written an entire book about being what he calls a “Drooling Fanatic,” which means he’s written a book of embarrassments.
From the beginning Almond makes it clear that he hasn’t written a series of paeans to his favorite bands. Instead, he’s interested in figuring out what makes someone own thousands of CDs or go to the same club week in and week out to hear a local band play. It turns out like anyone too invested in an art form, it largely springs from loneliness and an attempt to connect with something larger. That means examining all aspects of the listening experience: the way it forges friendships that have no other legs to stand on, the way it informs and elevates people in their darkest moments, and the way memories are inextricably tied up in power chords.
Almond may be best known for his depression/candy memoir Candyfreak, but he’s also an excellent short-story writer. Part of the charm of his writing is how he’s always whittling down to an emotional core, using a sledgehammer. When writing about a particular song, he writes, “It makes me pine for the perverse safety of all the self-defeating relationships I’ve ever been in. That’s how beautiful that fucking song is.” The amazing part is that Almond actually manages to be nuanced behind all that blunt force. He’s an underrated empathic writer. In a “reluctant exegesis” of Metallica’s “Fade to Black,” he writes about deciding not to deride the song, instead telling of his wife’s difficult adolescence and the important role that song played in her life. Yes, he elevated Metallica. And as in all arguments about music, for that you can either thank him or blame him.