The Grammar Of Rock by Alexander Theroux
Art and Artlessness in 20th Century Pop Lyrics

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What it will do is to make you laugh out loud or shout in anger—even if it does sometimes feel as if words, as Lennon and McCartney put it, are "flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup."
-WSJ online

Synopsis

Novelist and critic Alexander Theroux analyzes the pop song.

National Book Award nominee, critic and one of America’s least compromising satirists, Alexander Theroux takes a comprehensive look at the colorful language of pop lyrics and the realm of rock music in general in The Grammar of Rock: silly song titles; maddening instrumentals; shrieking divas; clunker lines; the worst (and best) songs ever written; geniuses of the art; movie stars who should never have raised their voice in song but who were too shameless to refuse a mic; and the excesses of awful Christmas recordings. Praising (and critiquing) the gems of lyricists both highbrow and low, Theroux does due reverence to classic word-masters like Ira Gershwin, Jimmy Van Heusen, Cole Porter, and Sammy Cahn, lyricists as diverse as Hank Williams, Buck Ram, the Moody Blues, and Randy Newman, Dylan and the Beatles, of course, and more outré ones like the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Patti Smith, the Fall (even Ghostface Killa), but he considers stupid rhymes, as well ― nonsense lyrics, chop logic, the uses and abuses of irony, country music macho, verbal howlers, how voices sound alike and why, and much more. In a way that no one else has ever done, with his usual encyclopedic insights into the state of the modern lyric, Theroux focuses on the state of language ― the power of words and the nature of syntax ― in The Grammar of Rock. He analyzes its assaults on listeners’ impulses by investigating singers’ styles, pondering illogical lunacies in lyrics, and deconstructing the nature of diction and presentation in the language. This is that rare book of discernment and probing wit (and not exclusively one that is a critical defense of quality) that positively evaluates the very nature of a pop song, and why one over another has an effect on the listener.
 

About Alexander Theroux

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Alexander Theroux is an award-winning novelist, poet and teacher whose prose works include Laura Warholic or, The Sexual Intellectual, Estonia, and the two artist monographs The Strange Case of Edward Gorey and The Enigma of Al Capp. His novel Darconvillersquo;s Cat was chosen by Anthony Burgess as one of the 99 greatest post-war novels. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife Sarah-Son Theroux.
 
Published February 16, 2013 by Fantagraphics. 352 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Education & Reference.
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Critic reviews for The Grammar Of Rock
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Will Friedwald on Jul 12 2013

What it will do is to make you laugh out loud or shout in anger—even if it does sometimes feel as if words, as Lennon and McCartney put it, are "flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup."

Read Full Review of The Grammar Of Rock: Art and ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Phil Dyess-Nugent on Mar 18 2013

...the book isn’t a blast, and its title is misleading...it’s about all popular music with lyrics, including the work of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and the Gershwins, Broadway show tunes, and forgotten songs from half-forgotten movies. And it’s really about any public use or misuse of language that has ever gotten up Theroux’s nose...

Read Full Review of The Grammar Of Rock: Art and ... | See more reviews from AV Club

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