ROCK CRITIC CHUCK EDDY is one of the world's great music fans. For the past 25 years, his writing for The Village Voice, Creem, Rolling Stone, Spin, and other outlets has kept Eddy at the center of pop music conversations. He's been an obstinate champion of overlooked genres like teen pop, country, AOR, rock en Español, and metal, and many record collections would be poorer without him. Eddy's quintessential record review, though, had nothing to do with any of those genres. Rather, it's a meditation on Michael Jackson in the form of a review of Jackson's 1991 Dangerousalbum for the Village Voice titled "Michael Jackson Loves the Sound of Breaking Glass." A hectoring invocation — "Hey, so how come nobody's compared the fucker to There's a Riot Goin' On?" — sets us off and running for 2,500 words that reek of Eddy, the cranky old man, tracing Jackson's "fear and loathing" not just back to Sly Stone, but to Robert Johnson's "Stones in My Passway." He evokes rock as much as pop and R & B, including his faves Slade and Kix and the snide trinity of Dylan/Rotten/Axl. And then there are the mannered devices: alliterative rhymes ("bopgun pops and bumblebeed beats"), lists ("electrogrunge/Burundi/square-dance/parade-music"), and holy-shit hyphenates ("crawl-on-your-belly-like-a-reptile throb"). Reading Eddy's new anthology, Rock and Roll Always Forgets, you learn to either welcome these devices like old friends or, if they start getting on your nerves, to simply skim over them.
Most striking is the tone of confrontation. Eddy also loves the sound of breaking glass, and he uses Michael Jackson to rail against whatever stones he finds in his own passway. Racing through a secret history of aggressive Jackson lyrics, Eddy challenges, "But who noticed? We were too stupid to understand the subtlety he's been shoving in our face for the last 21 years." Regarding the album's sound, he asks, "If there's nothing new happening on this record, as certain fools have claimed ... how do they explain all this noise?" Critical darlings suffer similar scorn: "And if Living Colour and Fugazi, neither of whom know the first thing about music-as-pleasure, can get away with piles of protests about not a damned thing we didn't already know, why shouldn't the most popular entertainer in the world be allowed the same courtesy?" Eddy Bugbear #1 is Lazy Critical Consensus; the most recent piece in this anthology is entitled "The Year of Too Much Consensus." For Eddy, other criticism is as surefire and entertaining a foil as Harold Bloom's School of Resentment, Paul Krugman's Very Serious People, or Pauline Kael's Auteur Theory motherfuckers. Eddy's spirit of confrontation fits his Michael Jackson review like a crowbar fits a windshield. It's magnificent.
Eddy has relished critical controversy from the get-go. The second-oldest piece here is "Over and Out," an excerpt from Eddy's 1983 Pazz & Jop poll comments. Eddy opens with scathing outsider logic: "How the fuck can you revolutionize an industry which...read more