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Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 Hardcover – 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316063797
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316063791
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 4.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 921 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #839,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is total rubbish. Michael Azerrad has worked for Rolling Stone and MTV News, what would he know about indie rock? He's one of those guys who, many years after the fact, realizes that "Daydream Nation" is a masterpiece and thinks a recording of Thurston Moore taking a dump is a work of art. This book should have been written by someone who actually knows something about independent music.
I will grant that Azerrad has a firm grasp of the English language, but his idea on what constitutes an underground musical subculture is unbelievably off-base. He writes with such cold emotion, I would guess he probably only comprehends what a handful of these bands were trying to do. The others are all obviously phoned in. At least when Robert Christgau or Ira Robbins says something I don't agree with, it's so razor-sharp and well-written I can understand and appreciate their point. With Azerrad, he's nothing but fawning or disrespectful. I'd bet that the majority of these bands were chosen just to make his work a big selling point. Perhaps that's why many of the artists associated with this book chose not to interview with him.
I hate music critics who are revisionalist pseudo-historians. Y'know who they are, they give Big Black one-and-a-half stars out of five when their albums first come out, because to them, it's just a bunch of noise. But now they'd probably give it four stars because it was very "influential" to Nirvana and Trent Reznor. But then when the new Shellac record comes out, guess what? It's not up to Big Black standards. Two stars.
If you want to hear oft-repeated stereotypes without having new, challenging questions posed, this book is for you. Heck, Janeane Garofalo and Matt Pinfield (remember him?
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Format: Hardcover
Being a veteran of the mosh pit, I found the chapters on SST/Black Flag-Minutemen-Husker Du most relevant to my tour of duty in the early 80s. The latter chapters on such as Beat Happening, Mudhoney, and Fugazi barely registered. Burma and Sonic Youth have their moments; the Boston band's relative isolation gains impact when contrasted with the NY scenester's careerism. The 'Mats chapter skids to a halt without even a mention of "Tim" as if after indie labels the band ceased--inconsistently, the Huskers' saga continues after they jumped to Warner Bros. Similarly, SY gets more ink in the midst of their major-label dealings, as do the BH Surfers. The decade of hardcore and underground pre-Nirvana post-Brit/NYC punk/art/pose makes for a logical framework, but the fate of those surviving "Nevermind" and "the year that punk broke" [sic] would also make for sobering reading.
Steve Albini, the Minutemen, the Huskers, and Fugazi seem to come off best as principled artists here; the beginnings with indie labels like SST prove fascinating, and the conflict between ethics and long-term careers does make for tension within many of the bands' histories. I would've dropped the Surfers--whose antics more than any music had made them noticed--and combined Fugazi with Minor Threat. The K Records twee pop legacy, unfortunate as it is, seems not to fit into the whole, and Mudhoney's chapter seems taken from the author's two works on the Seattle grunge scene.
What should have been added? How Alternative Press and Option magazines worked with the smaller 'zines to educate and create savvy listeners, along with the indie and college radio stations, across the nation and abroad.
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Format: Paperback
This book is great. Most of the bitching about this book stems from which bands were and which weren't chosen as subjects. Though I was never really into the Butthole Surfers or Big Black I still enjoyed the chapters on them and understood Azerrad's logic for their inclusion. The chapter on Black Flag is probably the best as it relates how the band literally created the entire indie/punk band touring across the country in a van scene. And then the Minutemen simply used Flag's connections to repeat the process and it flourished from there. It was also amazing to learn that Greg Ginn was a huge Grateful Dead fan, but damn it makes sense if you listen to those Rollins era Black Flag albums (too much jam-age.) Sure I would have liked chapters on the Descendents, Bad Religion, the Flaming Lips and maybe even the Pixies but this book was fine...and you always want some good material left for volume II. Disregard most of the nay-sayers though. Most of these people seem trapped in the same old debates of what is and what isn't punk. This book may have been doomed from the start in those circles, since nothing is probably less punk than actually being able to read.
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Format: Paperback
There is a lot of hostile criticism here about how this book isn't "punk enough" or is "too scholarly", etc. These reviews should only appeal to those trapped in some kind of stunted alternate-adolescence, where it is still 1984 (or even 1994) and you're feeling pretty cool because you're the first kid in your school to buy the new Dead Kennedys record.
For the rest of us, this is a mighty fine summation of the American underground music scene during the 1980's. Is it exhaustive? No, it could have used a chapter on the Meat Puppets or the Kennedys. Is it an important book? You betcha. There is no other book out there that documents this period with the enthusiasm and respect that Azerrad gives it.
If you're a big music fan and are interested in this massively important era of rock history, then trust me, you're going to enjoy this book. If you think you know it all already ("I lived it man, I was there when Flag played Chino"), then do yourself a favor and skip it.
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