Chuck Klosterman is the enemy of people who complain about cultural critics inserting themselves into their analyses of others’ work. In his writing for Spin, Klosterman disavows the dispassionate, hipper-than-thou voice that, for plenty of rock crit readers, suggests a comforting process of clinical appraisal; because he muses on how music makes him feel, or what breakfast cereal it reminds him of, or which Senate majority leader is most like Alice Cooper (as opposed to coolly dissecting the fascinating components of the Guided by Voices discography), he’s come to embody everything soft and mushy about music “journalism” in our blog- and blurb-addled era.
Thank goodness. In Killing Yourself to Live, a zippy expansion of a Spin piece in which he visited a handful of rock star death sites, Klosterman argues (in his warm, occasionally aggravating way) that there’s more in music to unpack than bullshit equations of influence and genre. So as he sits out a Georgian downpour, he regales us with a dubious theory about how Radiohead’s “Thom Yorke accidentally predicted the events of September 11 on Kid A“; as he roars across Montana, he (rather convincingly) compares each of his lovers to a different member of Kiss; as he digs the “disenfranchised cool kids in downtown Minneapolis,” he considers the merits of Foghat’s “Slow Ride” vs. those of Edgar Winter’s “Free Ride.” At one point he worries that referencing culture has become “the only way I can understand anything.” Dude, better that than another fucking Gang of Four reference.