Our band could be your life
I have consistently forgotten to blog about this for nearly two months but I read Our Band Could Be Your Life over the summer and just tore through it. I liked it very much. I’d avoided the book for years just out of fear that it would annoy the hell out of me. And while a lot of the individual stories did annoy me, overall, I liked the history of the era that it presented.
What I had a huge problem with was Azerrad’s central premise about how this particular post-punk scene in America set the stage for Nirvana and how the music world changed after that. I don’t really want to contest that thesis but whenever Azerrad took a turn towards wrapping things up in a neat package, I groaned. I appreciated the history and the personal stories of the bands in the book but the whole Theory of Nirvana is just tiresome. And I don’t know what it achieves. It just gives the book a “geezer-ish” slant, a you-kids-don’t-know-what-it-was-like-in-my-day kinda rant.
It also skewed Azerrad’s history a bit. He set a rule for the bands he would cover — they had to be on independent labels or on an indie during the time period he was covering. But two huge sell-outs get a lot of ink: Sonic Youth and The Replacements. True, he sorta stops talking about them when they sign to majors but he rules out R.E.M. from the get-go because IRS Records was some subsidiary of a major or something. Be that as it may, R.E.M. was still pretty damn indie and obscure in the 80s and certainly paid their dues while making some fine music. It’s a shame to leave them out of the story because of a technicality.
I wondered too at times if instead of covering bands, Azerrad had focused on the labels, would it have helped his thesis more. The Mudhoney chapter is essentially a chapter on SubPop and covering Beat Happening as a band who was part of this story instead of K Records really seemed like a stretch.
Todd K and I had one long conversation after I read it where we touched on a lot of other topics. But I can’t remember them all. Maybe we can keep that going in the comments.