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TERMINATED

FOR REASONS OF TASTE

TERMINATED
FOR REASONS OF TASTE

Other Ways to Hear Essential


and Inessential Music

Chuck Eddy

Duke University Press Durham and London 2016

2016 Duke University Press


All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
on acid-free paper
Designed by Amy Ruth Buchanan
Typeset in Minion Pro by Tseng Information Systems, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Eddy, Chuck, editor.
Title: Terminated for reasons of taste : other ways to hear
essential and inessential music / Chuck Eddy.
Description: Durham : Duke University Press, 2016. |
Includes index.
Identifiers: lccn 2016002413
isbn 9780822361893 (hardcover : alk. paper)
isbn 9780822362258 (pbk. : alk. paper)
isbn 9780822373896 (e-book)
Subjects: lcsh: Rock musicHistory and criticism. |
Popular musicHistory and criticism.
Classification: lcc ml3534.e293 2016 | ddc 781.6409dc23
lc record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2016002413

Cover design by Skillet Gilmore.

TO ALL CHUCKS CHILDREN

Contents

Acknowledgmentsxi
IntroductionSold a Decade at a Time1

.....
Chapter 1B.C. 5
The Best Songs of 193011
Depression Music13
Country Rap Prehistory15
Country Songs I17
Niela Miller: Songs of Leaving25
60s Catholic Folk Mass27
Country Songs II28
CB Jeebies39
Cant Fool Mother Nature40
Prog on the Prairie: Midwestern Bands Roll Over Beethoven41
Past Expiry Hard Rock Dollar Bin44
Sonic Taxonomy: Fake New Wave56
Inventing Indie Rock64
Urinals No Age67

Chapter 280s71
Sonic Taxonomy: Unsung 80s R&B Bands77
Country Rap: The 80s85
Sonic Taxonomy: Old Old Old School Rap Albums87
Public Enemy Do the Punk Rock96
Beastie Boys: Lay It Down, Clowns98
Aerosmith, Endangered No More105
Metallica: Kill Em All Turns 30110

Fates Warning and Possessed Open Up and Say . . . Ahh!113


Dead Milkmen vs. Thelonious Monster: Battle of the Lame114
Einstrzende Neubauten / Killdozer: The Graystone, Detroit,
11 June 1986116
New Wave ber Alles118
Frank Chickens M.I.A.124
Owed to the Nightingales127
Mekons Stumble toward Oblivion130
Mekons: So Good It Hurts132
Pet Shop Boys: 18 Shopping Days Left133
Billy Joel: Its Not His Fault!135
John Hiatt: Bring the Family139
John Anderson Serves the Doofus Majority140
Country Songs III142
The 80s: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back145

Chapter 390s153
TLC and Kris Kross: Women and Children First157
Cause & Effect: Trip160
The Cure: Spectrum, Philadelphia, 16 May 1992161
SOS from the Metal of Nowhere163
Motrhead berkill164
Pankow and Treponem Pal Ring in Desert Storm168
How Nirvana Didnt Kill Hair Metal170
Sponge: From Grunge to Glam171
Radio On Reviews I172
Travis Marries a Man!178
John Mellencamp: Dance Naked179
Sawyer Brown: Caf on the Corner181
Patricia Conroy: A Bad Day for Trains182
Grupo Exterminador: Dedicado a Mis Novias183
When FSK Play, Schnitzel Happens184
Radio On Reviews II185
Alanis Morissette: Addicted to Love189

Chapter 400s193
Singles Again: Backstabs in the Material World197
Bruce Springsteen: Working on a Dream202

Frat Daze, Clambake, Anyways, Its Still Country Soul


to Kenny Chesney204
Country Music Goes to Mexico204
September 11: Country Musics Response212
Battle of the Country Hunks214
Country Songs IV217
The Ladies of Triple A222
Anvil Wont Go Away225
Excellent Boring Metal from Germany227
The Many Ideas of Oneida228
Next Little Things232

Chapter 510s239
Singles Jukebox Reviews248
The Dirtbombs: Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey!252
Redd Kross: Researching the Blues256
Mayer Hawthorne Robert Palmer258
Kanye West: VEVO Power Station, Austin, 20 March 2011261
Taylor Swift and Ke$ha: Not So Different263
Ke$ha: Warrior267
Strange Brew: Metals New Blare Witch Project269
Metals Severed Extremities275
Walking Dead: The Divided States of Metal278
Voivod: Target Earth281
Merchandise: Totale Nite285
Mumford and Sons: Babel287
The Gospel Truth289
Southern Soul Keeps On Keepin On293
Jamey Johnson Sprawls Out297
Country Songs V300
Bro-Country Isnt as Dumb as It Looks302
Ashley Monroe and Kacey Musgraves Are What They Are304
When the Angels Stopped Watching Mindy McCready308

.....
ConclusionI Am the Worlds Forgettin Boy311
Index315

Acknowledgments

To conserve space, it seems prudent to start this off by honoring two huge
groups of people, namely (1) everybody I thanked in each of my three previous books, all written in eras overlapping my writing in this one; (2) any and
all friends on Facebook (more or less 570 these daysIm kind of selective)
who no doubt inspired me somehow and somewhere. If youre in either of
those categories, consider yourself appreciated; if not, feel free to look and
see who is.
Before there were social networks, there were social networks. Also after.
So if I ever agreed or argued with you at Why Music Sucks, Radio On, ilxor
.com, or Singles Jukebox; or ever worked with you at the Village Voice or Billboard; or ever spent every noon cst Tuesday for years on a Rhapsody conference call with you, we should probably go out for a beer sometime.
Editors who first printed these pieces (and frequently improved them) include but are by no means limited to Milo Miles at the Boston Phoenix; Jim
Walsh at City Pages; Rob Kenner at Complex; Dave DiMartino, Bill Holdship,
and John Kordosh at Creem; Greg Boyd and Bill Reynolds at Eye Weekly; Chris
Chang at Film Comment; Siobhan OConnor at good; Alastair Sutherland at
Graffiti; Maura Johnston at Idolator; John Payne at L.A. Weekly; Jessica Suarez
at mtv Hive; Phil Dellio (who also mailed me a Matchbox 20 photo I used in
here somewhere, and whose own recent collection Interrupting My Train of
Thought belongs on your reading list as well) at Radio On; Keith Moerer at Request; Garrett Kamps, Sam Chennault, Rob Harvilla, and Stephanie Benson at
Rhapsody; Nick Catucci at rollingstone.com; William Swygart at Singles Jukebox; Sue Rollinger at the Spectrum; Simon Reynolds, Charles Aaron, and Chris
Weingarten at Spin; Will Fulford-Jones at Time Out London; Doug Simmons
and Harvilla at the Village Voice; and J. Edward Keyes and Jayson Greene at
Wondering Sound (called eMusic at the time).
(Some related legal stuff: mtv s September 11: Country Musics Response

used with permission by mtv. Viacom Media Networks. All rights reserved.
mtv, all related titles and logos are trademarks owned by Viacom Media Networks, a division of Viacom International Inc. Kanye West, Jay-Z, Justin Vernon and More Overwhelm in sxsw s Crowning Blowout Copyright Rolling Stone llc 2011. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Backstabs in the
Material World and Frat Daze, Clambake, Anyways, Its Still Country Soul
to Him first published in the Village Voice, a Voice Media Group publication.
Several other pieces were reprinted with express permission of Voice Media
Group, creem Media, Inc., and good.)
The headline Past Expiry Hard Rock Dollar Bin was partly swiped from
the title of a recurring I Love Music thread initiated in 2009 by George Smith,
who I probably borrowed a riff or two from as well. George, Gina Arnold, J. D.
Considine, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Tom Ewing, Tim Finney, Joshua Kortbein, Glenn McDonald, David Cooper Moore, Ned Raggett, Mark Richardson,
Philip Sherburne, Steve Smith, Jannon Sonja Stein, and Annie Zaleski, among
others, provided valuable recollections on a Facebook thread I summarize
herein about the origins of music writing on the Internet. Jody Rosen, who
also knows more about turn-of-the-20th-century music than I do, gave bro-
country its name. And its impossible to gauge how much my thinking and
writing have been inspired over the years, and continue to be, by colleagues
like Jacob Alrich, Kevin Bozelka, Dan Brockman, David Cantwell, Jon Caramanica, Robert Christgau, Matt Cibula, Leila Cobo, Anthony Easton, Justin
Farrar, Michael Freedberg, Jeanne Fury, Keith Harris, Jewly Hight, Christian
Hoard, Charles Hughes, Edd Hurt, Maura Johnston, Josh Langhoff, Greil
Marcus, Michaelangelo Matos, Chris Molanphy, Daddy B. Nice, Martin Popoff, Ann Powers, Mosi Reeves, Metal Mike Saunders, Rob Sheffield, Sara Sherr,
Alfred Soto, Jack Thompson, Barry Walters, Eric Weisbard, Dan Weiss, Carl
Wilson, Scott Woods, Ron Wynn, and above all Frank Kogan and Scott Seward
. . . seriously, I could go on forever.
And then theres Lalena, whose husband I am, who deserves thanks for
putting up with me and line-editing all the chapter intros, and Annika, Cordelia, Sherman, and William, whose dad I am, who deserve thanks for keeping me halfway grounded and teaching me about jiu-jitsu, terfs, graffiti, and
yurts. And Ken Wissoker, Elizabeth Ault, and Danielle Szulczewski Houtz at
Duke, who let me do this thing again and walked me through it, tolerating
my obsessive-compulsive logistical questions as if they werent the mark of a
troubled mind. And finally, whoever buys, reads, or writes about this book.
Im so lucky yall are out there. Thank you falettinme be mice elf agin.
xiiAcknowledgments

Introduction
Sold a Decade at a Time
When people meet me and find out what I do for a living, they inevitably ask
me what kind of music I listen to and write about. I never know how to answer
the questionnever haveso usually I just kind of fumble and stutter a lot.
If I told them how I really felt, theyd probably just think I was weird: namely,
that pop music is bigger, more multidimensional, endlessly compelling in
more directions, than they ever imagined. So its kinda hard to pin the stuff
down.
If it helps, though, when I used to moonlight as a bar dj late Saturday
nights while living in New York City at the start of the 21st century, heres how
I advertised my genre leanings: dj Edelweiss spins a danceable and drinkable all-vinyl selection of proto-Eurodisco bongo-rock, German reggae,
danceable prog, hair-extension metal, Gregorian garage, boogie-oogied country, stoner glam, industrial bubblegum, popping-and-locking Zulu wildstyle
space-cowboy hip hop bommi bop, and drunken frat-soul with parties going
on in the background. Plus zillions of ancient Top 40 songs youd forgotten
until now. Okay, maybe that doesnt help so much.
Still, heres the thing: I see music history repeating itself, revolving again
and again in strange, intriguing, disturbing, revealing, often hilarious ways.
In the more than three decades during which I wrote the pieces in this book,
popular music itself, music criticism, the music industry, communication
media, and America have all changed immeasurably. So this book aims to
plug into a whole bunch of those changes as they occurred, and somehow tie
them together.
Though it might look at first like an unnavigable dump, there is rather
meticulous method to my madnessa logic, or several overlapping logics.
There are trapdoors and secret passages connecting it all; if you want, you can
make a game of it. Yet all the material comprises just a fraction of my music
writingor rather, another fraction, after the 100 or so pieces compiled in my

previous Duke collection, 2011s Rock and Roll Always Forgets (which followed
1997s The Accidental Evolution of RocknRoll, which followed my 1991 heavy
metal album guide Stairway to Hell, which I updated and expanded in 1998).
So yes, I am milking my once-prolific career as a rock critic for all its worth!
Theres even a short piece I wrote for my high school newspaper, back in the
70s. But though I was contributing a decade later to Rolling Stone and still do,
Ive included no pieces from that magazine, unless a Kanye West live review
that only ran on their website counts. None of the hundreds of reviews Ive
written over the years for Entertainment Weekly or Blender or Billboard (where
I worked as an editor) are in here, either.
Even more than its predecessor, Terminated for Reasons of Taste includes
plenty of writing I didnt even get paid formuch of which first appeared in
Xeroxed fanzines, on Internet discussion boards, on nebulous websites that
came and went. Two full-length reviewsof 60s folk artist Niela Miller and
a 2009 Bruce Springsteen albumare actually pieced together from extended
off-the-cuff posts on the I Love Music board; for whatever reason, I think
they captured more of my voice than most reviews that actually paid my bills.
Occasionally, especially with selections from more amateur outlets like that
one, Ive since self-edited pieces from their original rambling-off-the-top-of-
my-head state or folded adjacent posts together for reasons of clarity, coherency, and accuracy and to avoid redundancy and dumb typos; a few pieces
have also been condensed somewhat, so as not to waste precious space, or
reverted to pre-editor-remixed form when I was convinced theyd lost something in translation. Ive also retooled certain headlines if the originals werent
doing their job, or made no sense in retrospect. But throughout, I tried to
select work that somehow holds up for mebelieve me, a worst of Chuck
Eddy compilation would be way thicker than this one.
I started writing professionally, if you can call it that, in early 1984, and the
book divides itself into five chronological sections, revolving around music
from the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, andin the first one, facetiously titled
b.c.all of history Before I was a Critic. Under each of those umbrellas, I
tried to organize pieces like a playlist or mixtape or good radio set, to transition
logically into each otherto set each other up, answer each others questions,
carry on an internal conversation or debate. So pieces on similar genres or by
related artists or with intersecting themes or geography tend to be grouped
together when feasible, with cusps between genres (rap-rock, say) sometimes
serving as mortar. This allows styles to evolve through the pages. For instance,
I trace country musics mutations from the 20s all the way to the present, in
2Introduction

part via five batches of song reviews first published on the mostly hip-hop-
oriented website Complex in 2012. In another thread that keeps popping back
up, you get to watch me fall in and out of and back in love with heavy metal.
Even folk revivals, never my specialty, recur now and then throughoutfrom
Niela Miller and Catholic folk masses all the way to Mumford and Sons.
Other serial threads recur as well, including a few from Spins post-print-
era website: two pieces on country rap; three Sonic Taxonomy columns exploring essential albums in unexplored (and, in the case of Fake New Wave,
maybe imaginary) genres; three titled with arrows ( or ) where I discuss a
current artist alongside one from decades before. There are also two assemblages of real-time single-song reviews from the 90s fanzine Radio On, sequeled in subsequent decades by similar collections from the Village Voice and
the Singles Jukebox site.
Some extramusical threads no doubt run through, too, and Im not even
sure I could name those myself. But I do plenty of explaining, in too much
detail maybe, in all five section introductions. So Ill terminate this now, and
hope you find some of what follows to your taste.

Sold a Decade at a Time3