In Geek Rock: An Exploration of Music and Subculture, editors Alex DiBlasi and Victoria Willis examine the intertwining of “geek culture” and music, in a methodical and very academic fashion.  This is a serious study of and look at what could be termed as the music specifically geared toward/embraced by the “geek” culture.  I do have to say that while I think the term is unfair – there is nothing geeky, nerdy, etc. about listening to the likes of Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa – I can understand that the musics discussed in this book are, by and large, for the more cerebral/esoterically inclined listener.   However, it is described as thus:  “”geek rock” refers to forms of popular music that celebrate all things campy, kitschy, and quirky.” It further lets the reader know that this collection of essays runs the gamut in evaluating the writing of songs about “poodles, girls, monster movies, and outer space to just what it means to be ”white and nerdy.””  Which is fair in trying to ascertain just what “geek rock” could be interpreted as.

DiBlasi and Willis collected eleven essays from around the world, trying to cover the how, when, where, and whys of geek culture’s music from its earliest preferences, which include (as said previously) Zappa and Beefheart, Devo, They Might Be Giants and on to what has now become known as “nerdcore”.  These various essays aren’t simply a fan’s point of view; rather these are serious cultural and musical looks, evaluations and dissections – and although it’s well researched and all angles of the various theories presented, it’s the essays on post-Yugoslavian “geek rock” and comparing They Might Be Giants to Jacques Lacan that I find a bit harder to absorb.  That isn’t to say this isn’t well-written and presented in as clinically, seriously and meticulous a manner possible – it is.  It’s just that at the end of the day, geek or no geek, it’s all pop music.  An interesting read but one which will need complete focus to truly appreciate and enjoy.  As a fan of Beefheart and an appreciator of Zappa, I would say, yes, do check this book out.  And extra applause for compiling a serious book on a musical subculture; this is not a predictable tome of fan fluff.  These are smart music people.


Geek Rock: An Exploration of Music and Subculture is currently available


About the Author

Rob Ross

Rob Ross has been, for good, bad or indifferent, involved in the music industry for over 30 years - first as guitarist/singer/songwriter with The Punch Line, then as freelance journalist, producer and manager to working for independent and major record labels. He resides in Staten Island, New York with his wife and cats; he works out a lot, reads voraciously, loves Big Star and his orange Gretsch. Doesn't that make him neat?

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