In an essay about a Carnival "Rock Cruise," on which Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Journey played songs like "Keep on Lovin' You" to seasick vacationers, Chuck Klosterman lays out the central thesis of his journalism: that "culture is always more interesting [than music]." And so while Klosterman might always be marginalized as the guy who writes about Saved by the Bell and all-female tribute bands, it becomes clearer with every book that his real subjects are the cultures of youth, media, fame, image crafting, contemporary romance, and self-selecting cultural subcultures.
Nowhere is this clearer than in his new book, Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, in which the author steps up with tighter arguments than ever before, while writing passages funny enough to make you stop and read them aloud to whomever is nearby.
There are essays about "goth day" at Disneyland ("Q: How do you make 50 goth kids sprint across Disneyland? A: Put up a sign that says 'Smoking Section.'"); the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster ("James Hetfield returns to the band from rehab as a completely changed man—he even begins wearing eyeglasses, for some reason."); and a terrific interview with Robert Plant ("On 'Whole Lotta Love' you say you're going to give some girl 'every inch' of your love. But you're British. Why don't you use the metric system?")
Klosterman seems to have dropped his tic of inserting pop culture jokes into every single sentence, and his prose is considerably stronger for it. There's a section of the book dedicated to more abstract "think pieces," where the author gets to put forth arguments that could easily stand next to the works of popular nonfiction writers like Malcolm Gladwell, Douglas Rushkoff, or Steven Levitt. An essay on the death of Johnny Carson and Barry Schwartz's book The Paradox of Choice deftly illustrates how much Klosterman has grown as a writer since Fargo Rock City. By reigning in his borderline-autistic rock geekdom and masterfully proving the most illogical theories with simple Midwestern logic, Klosterman proves himself as not only one of the best music writers on the scene, but one of the top cultural theorists as well. (Or at least the most readable.)