Corey Taylor is pissed.
Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor is pissed. The blinding rage that permeates his latest book, America 51, comes across in each sentence, and it’s almost more convincing than the most barbaric growls he’s issued in song. What’s got Iowa’s not-so-favorite son cheesed this time? Maybe the same thing as the rest of us: An American election season that left most with a sour taste in their mouths, a country in which the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to increase, a world where people can’t take a joke and where few can register the difference between the truth and the absurd.
Born in 1973, Taylor is a Gen-Xer who grew up in poverty and wanted nothing more to escape from it. His recollections of being born into dire straits and learning the particular wisdom of the poor informs the frustration dripping from the high and low points of American 51’s pages. As a guy who grew up in an era in which one narrative involved people wanting to distance themselves from racism while another insisted that America had become too broad and too welcoming, he represents the butt end of the so-called slackers who nevertheless were taught that anyone could pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
He admits that he didn’t like Trump and hoped he would lose the election, leaving America to live in some kind of peculiar compromise. Hillary Clinton wasn’t exactly the same brand of liberal as Jimmy Carter but she also wasn’t a conservative advised by men with views that danced on precipice of white supremacism. The trouble is, being liberal isn’t enough. These days, Taylor argues, it’s hard to tell whose side the Democrats are really on and if the party has its collective shit together.
It’s easy to argue that those coal and manufacturing jobs aren’t going to come back the way that the Right thinks they will; it’s another thing to demean those who desperately want to believe in a future not promised to tech wizards and the willingly gentrified. That’s the crux of the book, really, that if America is going to polarize it should do so in a way that takes different approaches toward the uplift of the disenfranchised rather than simply perpetuating wider divides.
The argument is compelling, but it can be hard to muddle through the deeply entrenched rage that Taylor puts forth. Perhaps it’s his years fronting bands that play a particular brand of rock music based on alienation and fed by a certain mythology, but this anger strikes hard enough that it’s almost unbearable at times. In certain moments, one feels like casting the book aside and shouting, “Well, why don’t you do something about it, Mr. Rock Star?”
That, it turns out, is where America 51 ultimately succeeds: Taylor backs us into a corner and insists that we ask that question of ourselves: What are we going to do about it? What can a body of humans fed on corporate dreams from Target to Apple do to close these divides and quell rather than fan the flames of anger? His conclusion that we might just embrace the milquetoast version of a revolution seems sad in a way, but the resolve in his voice reveals that Taylor believes we can do better.