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A Quarter Century of Music Criticism

by Chuck Eddy

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8223-4996-9
Publisher: Duke Univ.

An idiosyncratic rock critic curates his alleged greatest hits.

Eddy (The Accidental Evolution of Rock ’n’ Roll, 2007, etc.) has acquired a curious rep through work for almost every music rag of repute over the course of his career. He honed his chops at traditional journalistic outposts, and he shines brightest in his reportorial work. The most distinguished pieces here are either straight shoe-leather journalism (e.g., a dazzling look at Eminem’s music through the prism of the rapper’s tangled family life or a deft portrait of the aging Ramones) or hopped-up band profiles (e.g., his hilarious give-and-take with AC/DC or his bemused sit-down with U.K. dance-pop heroes Pet Shop Boys). However, the majority of the collection comprises Eddy’s criticism for the Village Voice (where he served as music editor for several years) and various rock-centric magazines. In the last of the chapter introductions that hold the book together, he declares defensively, and stridently, that he is not the “contrarian” that his detractors have long accused him of being. (Nonetheless, in his foreword, Chuck Klosterman defines Eddy’s credo as “most thoughts about music are backwards,” without irony.) If not a contrarian, then he is either a wry observer who takes joy in dismantling rock-crit orthodoxy or a tiresome guy with an enormous record collection and very little taste. While he often proves he knows a jive band when he sees one (e.g., his reviews of Live and the Mentors), he raves over marginalia like metallurgists White Wizzard or pre-fab junk like the Spice Girls while kicking the stuffing out of Radiohead and Nirvana. His championing of jingoistic pinheads Montgomery Gentry and Toby Keith is simply inexplicable, and unconvincing to boot. Eddy’s opinions induce both head-scratching and headaches, while his hyperventilating style and his can-you-top-this tendency to incessantly scatter indiscriminate comparisons wear out his welcome.

Despite some gems, addled aesthetics and gale-force gusts of critical wind torpedo this collection.