“Dolores” (Eddie Noack)

Country music has turned up its fair share of specialists in criminal psychology, such as Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck, and Porter Wagoner. No matter how vile the material, what unites such trax in an overarching economy of life involving God and guns, sinning and supplicating. Even prospective prisoners are full of sorrow, or at least polite (see “Pardon Me, I’ve Got Someone to Kill”). Perpetrators of violence narrate their fall with respect to the seven deadly sins, admit their guilt, and accept the logic of the death penalty. Perhaps some of these criminal singers already have been subjected to a social worker or a minister, shaping their narratives toward identity coherence and narrative closure. Then comes Eddie Noack, a no-chancer who forever altered such stories of closure via a pair of nearly forgotten trax: “Psycho” (1968) and “Dolores” (1969). In the latter, the singer tells his girl that a “berserk” serial slayer is on the loose, and she needs to stay home tonight. She doesn’t, of course, and soon he’s at the morgue, identifying her body. But wait! It turns out the singer is also the killer, and the police don’t have a clue. The singer therefore finds himself split between two identities, and the trax broadly belongs to the tradition of the recursive detective (Oedipus, for instance, or Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me [1952], or Philip K. Dick’s The Man Who Japed [1956]). “How could I know that it was you?” he asks, shuttling between the man who knew her well, and the one to whom she was a stranger. He’s broken into pieces that never were and never can be knit together, and all signs point back toward his original monstrosity.


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“Garden of Eden” (Guns N’ Roses)

Axl Rose’s consistency as a lyricist should never be in question: beyond dispute, he is a “country” singer, regarding the city, over and over again, as a place of diaspora and loss for him. But he does not sing in the genre called “country music,” and for reasons of absolute and complete diaspora. Country boys are nice and simple folk (see “Welcome to the Jungle,” Appetite for Destruction), and such “nice boys don’t play rock and roll” (see “Nice Boys,” Lies).  But, for Axl, that was long ago and far away. Rock is an index of Babylon, of corruption.  “We’re lost in the garden of Eden,” and the “problem” itself is called “rock’n’roll.” But as a mere index, it has no pragmatic utility, and GN’R is not so much irresponsible as not responsible. A declaration of radically innocent corruption, then.

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