Podcast of the Week: CELEBRATION ROCK
In the time between Grantland closing down (R.I.P. forever, Grantland) and starting at Uproxx, noted culture critic and veteran rock writer Steven Hyden was stuck in contractual purgatory. The result of that anxious boredom was the CELEBRATION ROCK podcast which, as the Japandroids-inspired name implies, triumphantly delivers interviews, commentary, and deep dives on the United State’s second most prominent genre.
Hyden’s observations and insights as a Midwestern rock enthusiast delightfully come from a place of both fan and critic, something that comes across in his writing (if you haven’t, definitely pick up his latest book, YOUR FAVORITE BAND IS KILLING ME) and in the podcast. His takes are thoughtful but also impassioned—perhaps calling them takes at all does the conversational tone of the whole dialogue a disservice. Whether it’s discussing the validity of Jack White’s latest album with Pitchfork’s Jeremy Larson, or talking about North Carolina and early hardcore with Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan, CELEBRATION ROCK delights in its ability to deliver bar talk, cultural observations, and joyous excitement for the genre in equal measure.
With that, CELEBRATION ROCK tries to cover everything. “Rock,” as an all-encompassing genre, is naturally a pretty big term, and the podcast certainly tries to cover everything from emo to the blues to Ween. The guests range from journalists like Vice’s Larry Fitzmaurice discussing the Killers to Mike Gordon from the band Phish to the Black Crowe’s Steve Gorman exclusively discussing Robert Plant.
One of CELEBRATION ROCK’s best features is having musicians on to discuss artists they admire. The podcast has now run two series, one about Bruce Springsteen and one about Pearl Jam, in which a wide array of guests join the podcast to discuss titans of rock culture. They’re some of the most delightful and exhaustive album explorations in the podcast format, not necessarily because they’re fact driven or overly insightful (although they can be both), but because there’s a passion and zeal to the discussion that is equally clinical and geeky. Hearing Patrick Stickles discuss THE RIVER and the Boss at large, or The War On Drugs’ Dave Hartley break down Pearl Jam’s VS., represents CELEBRATION ROCK at its finest, revealing something about both rock, its history, and the guests’ relationship with it. Both series are worthy of your time, and a great excuse to revisit some of classic rock’s most treasured and fascinating moments.
CELEBRATION ROCK is unapologetic in its appreciation for rock music, bringing an excitement to some of its corny or dated edges while in the same breath mentioning Radiohead or THE BOXER, and it’s made all the better for it. If Hyden and his guests didn’t feel as passionately about the genre of rock as they do, the result would likely be something far more cynical. But as it is, it’s a must listen for music fans looking to explore an ever-widening musical history.