5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant exploration of the 80's underground.,
This review is from: Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 (Paperback)
This book is fantastic. It's hefty 501 pages are split into sections, each one covering one of 13 important bands that had a noticeable impact on the 80's American punk/indie underground.
- Black Flag
- The Minutemen
- Mission Of Burma
- Minor Threat
- Husker Du
- The Replacements
- Sonic Youth
- Butthole Surfers
- Big Black
- Dinosaur Jr
- Beat Happening
Azerrad admits at the off-set that the stories of each band trail off or stop completely if they reach a point at which the band signed to a major lable. This can be frustrating, but is understandable as the book was written with the intention of covering independant music only. Because of this, it is primarilly concerned with how bands start up and develop a following, so don't expect a full life story.
Azerrad does a fantastic job of holding your attention and making what could be quite a dull topic into a real "page turner". The book goes into great detail throughout, not just in terms of the bands, but when covering the independant record lables they were on and what was happening in their cities and the culture surrounding them at the time. Azerrad manages to keep this interesting, without ever seeming tedious or unnecessary.
It is also refreshingly honest, which leads to quite a few of the profiles being far from flattering to the artists they cover. (It seems you can't be in a good band unless at least one of your members is staggeringly selfish with an "artistic temperament".)
I can reccomend downloading an album by each artist and listening to it while reading their chapter. It gave each story a better sense of context, as well as reminding me of music I had forgotten and introducing me to some that I had never heard before. It also made it possible to track the influence of each band on the one that followed.
The book is astonishingly well researched and was obviously written by somebody who loved the topic he was covering. However, this is the source of it's only real flaw; the author's tendancy to over-exaggurate and, on occasion, use the music journalist's habit of over-stating the importance and impact of the bands in question. It definately goes a bit "fan boy" in places and describes certain standard guitar chords by using unnecesarry hyperbole such as "transendental". (Although, I'm sure those people who's lives these bands were would find this justified.)
There is definately a very punk rock "do it yourself" sensability to this book (as well as a slight indie elitism). At times, it can feel like Azerrad is looking a bit too hard for reasons to make each band fit this mould, but it is often justified and works to tie the whole book together under a common theme. In fact, it works so well that, halfway through reading it, I joined a band! (Fact.)
If you have any interest in indie music or just what goes on "behind the scenes" then you will love this book. It covers the lives of interesting bands with interesting stories who helped to break the mould of tradition rock and pave the way for Nirvana and the alternative explosion. For me, there wasn't a single dull moment.
Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991(14 customer reviews)