In the world of academia, the lengthiest arguments revolve around issues of authenticity, thoroughness of research and the way in which disparate facts are connected. In the world of rock writing these issues aren’t usually given the time of day. In recent years books on punk rock have become more and more common, ranging from the idiotic (Greil Marcus, various titles that started as college papers) to the entertaining (Please Kill Me, Rotten’s autobio) to the purely confused. This book belongs in the latter group since it is not only just about punk but is an attempt to, uh, explain rock in a bizarro-world version of Cutler’s File Under Pop.
Rock and the Pop Narcotic is a mishmash, and as such is difficult to completely dis or dismiss, or for that matter take seriously. Carducci is preoccupied with what in rock ‘n’ roll history does or does not “rock.” And how “pop” has watered down “rock” (a bunch of “fags” are to blame for this says the author). Saint Vitus “rock” and so does Black Sabbath and a lot of other bands Carducci likes. Bands he doesn’t like don’t “rock”. The Pet Shop Boys or New Order don’t “rock.” Pretty simple. This goes on for 500 pages.
Carducci spent his formative years in the SoCal hardcore scene (at SST Records) and is deciphering the world of rock ‘n’ roll music from his own point of view, which is interesting (in the same way as is any piece of historical or cultural writing attempting to explain a huge and complex subject from an extremely limited perspective). Carducci may come off as more sincere than Marsh or Marcus et al. but one should still remember that Rock and the Pop Narcotic is a rant book, by a rabid rock ’n’ roll fan who frequently stumbles over the line separating the fan from the kook.
Paperback: 532 pages