Waxing Rhapsodic

I'm listening to Billy Joel right now, and it's all Chuck Klosterman's fault. That prick. Prompted by a passage that I read earlier this morning in one of his books, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, I'm sorting through several of Joel's deep cuts, among them a tune called "Where's the Orchestra," from The Nylon Curtain.

Although I'm familiar with Curtain's hits -- "Allentown," "Pressure" and "Goodnight Saigon" -- honestly, I'd never ventured beyond that. And I suspect that I'm not alone. Klosterman, however, contends that Joel's genius lies in deep cuts.

Joel's gift, Klosterman claims, was in creating a framework that you can easily insert yourself into. More than any other track, "Where's Orchestra" conveys his overall worldview. In fact, he asserts, those who listen intently to that song will gain a better understanding of him -- Klosterman that is, not Joel, someone Klosterman espouses as brilliant even if he isn't remotely cool. As Klosterman repeatedly tells you.

That's the thing about Klosterman. I can't decide if the dude is the quintessential contrarian, brazenly championing shit no one else would even dare to just because, or if he's like me and truly dancing to the beat of his own drum. Either way, I admire Klosterman's critical thinking skills. Moreover, he has a knack for laying things out in such a way that make even someone like Billy Joel seem interesting. His assessment of the Piano Man made me want to hear those songs. Thing is, though, I don't own any of those albums. And as much as I dig Klosterman, I'm not about to go out and buy the discs simply based on his word.

Thanks to a three-month trial subscription to Rhapsody that a friend recently blessed me with, I don't have to. Rhapsody is one of the best things to happen to music in the past few years. For under ten bucks a month, you're granted access to just about any album you can think of -- in its entirety. Granted, you have to download an application and the music is delivered on a streaming basis, meaning you have to actually buy the tunes if you want to own it -- which I don't. So Rhapsody suits my current listening habits perfectly. After nearly two decades of collecting, I've reached a point in my life where I don't need to own more records. As it is, I already have more discs than I have space. So I'm cool with just listening to the music whenever I feel like it. Like now. Rhapsody comes in especially handy in times like these.

Within minutes of logging onto my computer, I'm listening to "Orchestra" and "Laura." Sadly, I don't hear what Klosterman hears in the former. The wistful, borderline-sappy piano ballad sounds like exit music to some tepid romantic comedy; it doesn't move me the way it does Klosterman. But "Laura" does. And thanks to Rhapsody, I can reach these conclusions -- and discover a few overlooked gems -- without having to part with my hard-earned loot. -- Dave Herrera

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera