Bob Gendron

This entry in the 33⅓ series covers The Afghan Whigs estimable 1993 release Gentlemen.
After brief but well constructed introduction to the band members it seemed to me that it became rather by-the-numbers when talking about the recording of the record. The section talking about the individual songs held nothing new and was where the author’s personal opinions began to overwhelm the factual content.
As for the part of the book dealing with the book’s reception after release and it’s lack of sales is chock full of biases about the music industry (Gendron seems to really not get why a difficult to classify album about messed up sexual relationships might not have sold in the early 90s) and is less than even handed when talking about the fallout.
It was worth borrowing from the library. I’d be rather disappointed if I’d paid money for it.

Rating: B


Fear of Music

Garry Mulholland

The follow up to This is Uncool is Mulholland’s choice of the greatest albums since Disco and Punk (the original was just singles).
This book is very similar in style to This is Uncool. It’s tone is much angrier and (to me as someone who was on message boards during the poptimism/rockism thing) it’s a more political than personal in some choices this time around.
I’ve docked it point for the off tangent ranting in some entries and for the rather bleak view takes of even the best music in the final few choices.
It’s a cheap and interesting read for any pop music nerd in your life.

Rating: B


This Is Uncool

Garry Mulholland

In this collection of reviews Mulholland picks the best singles from Punk to the Milennium.
Of course this is a highly subjective thing but writes persuadingly on the worth of Pop in general and specifically on critically derided musical genres like Disco.
I vehemently disagreed with some of his opinions (mainly about your more earnest 80’s rock acts) but learned enough to want to listen to a whole lot of music that I’d never even thought of checking out before.
It’s super cheap right now second hand but for the sake of your wrists don’t buy the hardback like I did!
If it matters I bought this because it came highly recommended by Kieron Gillen.

Rating: B+


Chuck Klosterman IV

Chuck Klosterman

Chuck Klosterman IVA loose collection of artist profiles, opinion columns and random other bits of writing. Klosterman is a very readable writer but can take some very annoying positions on popular culture.
He’s got a whole more broadminded than thou thing going on, combined with a popular is good except when I don’t like it stance. Like I say, annoying.

Rating: B-


Unknown Pleasures

Chris Ott

Unknown Pleasures 33 and a thirdPart of Continuum’s 33 and 1/3 series of short books that examine recordings by beloved artists over the years.
This one looks at the rise of Joy Division at the making of their classic debut album, Unknown Pleasures.
Given the brevity of the book it cannot compete with works like “Touching From a Distance” or celebrate the myth to the extent that Twenty-Four Hour Party People did.
It’s a basic, functional little volume.
It’s worth picking up cheap if you particularly love Joy Division.

Rating: C+


Our Band Could Be Your Life

Michael Azerrad

Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael AzerradThe story of the American indie underground in the eighties as told through short biographies of some of the leading lights of the scene.
I really enjoyed at least half of these short bios, as some of the bands had fascinating interpersonal struggles, financial problems and made great music.
However, the author made some odd decisions. Your band is only indie if your records are recorded for an indie label who used only indie distribution? A pointless distinction if you ask me. If, as I suspect, he only did this to avoid covering REM for the millionth time, then why not just say that?
Why, also, decide to not cover the major label careers of the bands that he does write about beyond a brief sneery paragraph or two about how none of their records were as good once they took money from the big boys?
Why spend countless pages wittering on about the idealism of certain bands? Sure they had admirable politics, that’s great, I want to read about the music too at some point though.
Maybe I’m too comfortably cynical about the music business as a whole but the whole concept of indie purity just seems silly to me nowadays. So I’m docking points for his pious devotion to his precious hardcore band’s purity.
Otherwise highly recommended for those with an interest in 80’s underground indie music.

Rating: A-


Fargo Rock City

Chuck Klosterman

I’ve read this book before (entry missing due to db hacker)
Klosterman’s aim with this book was, to quote, ‘to show why all that poofy, sexist, shallow glam rock was important’. You know what? He totally failed
Klosterman is a talented writer with a witty personable voice that makes it feel like he’s talking to you one on one.
The major flaw with the book is that while he obviously loves his metal, he’s also deeply insecure about how unhip it is to like it.
Maybe it’s his position as a music critic (a profesion full of hipper-than-thou people) that’s made him so defensive, I don’t know. He spends too much time trying to defend the genre with regard to sexism etc., using incoherent, poorly thought out arguments when he should just acknowledge that it existed. Of course it existed. However, a lot of the point of metal for it’s creators and fans over the years has been that it pisses people off. That’s all he really needed to say.
The book works when it acts as a biography and talks about how the music soundtracked his life and he should have spent more time on that.
One point that continues to hack me off is his bizarre snobbery about 80’s underground music that appears in the epilogue. He gets all het up at the notion that you had to be a bit more adventurous to discover the stuff than metal. It’s just fucking true. These bands sold next to nothing, had minimal radio play and ended up meaning a bit too much to the people who loved them. Get over the fact that you liked popular music. Embrace the idea.
I’ve watched two documentaries about the history of metal and the metallica doc recently and this book doesn’t do it’s subject any justice compared even to those deeply flawed projects.
The book is frequently funny, it’s just that it’s frequently wrong-headed too. Go in expecting that and you will get the best out of it.

Rating: C