Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From The American Indie Underground BOOK review [Michael Azerad]



Book Reviews
Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From The American Indie Underground BOOK review [Michael Azerad]
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Jul 31, 2001, 03:50

OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE: SCENES FROM  THE AMERICAN INDIE UNDERGROUND 1981-1991 by Michael Azerad; Little Brown, 2001

A significant portion of underground rock music created in the last 20 years has been over-documented by fanzines and record labels but there have been few attempts to comprehensively present its history to a large audience. In Our Band Could Be Your Life, Michael Azerrad (Spin, Rolling Stone, Billboard) synopsizes the histories of 13 bands that were influential during the '80s and infers that the vitality inherent in their independent approach to making music was usurped by methods of operation that became increasingly homogenous. Whether these bands chose to work within pre-existing business structures (Butthole Surfers, Dinosaur Jr.), those developed by their peers (Minutemen, Big Black), or self-defined ones (Fugazi, Beat Happening), most found that with a degree of success came cultural, personal, and business-related forces that threatened the development of their musical efforts. A considerable number of bands faced turmoil from within. While Azerrad does an admirable job of unearthing anecdotes of a personal nature—most will be known to anyone who has absorbed the musical journals of the time (Option, MaximumRockandRoll, Conflict, and Forced Exposure are among those referenced). Sonic Youth, the band presented as the most successful (in terms of longevity and cultural prestige), is also portrayed as the best at befriending people of influence and working the media but, as throughout the book, Azerrad refrains from passing judgement. There are bound to be significant omissions in any book that attempts to cover such a broad scope of music and Azerrad shuns underground metal (Metallica, White Zombie) and the roots of alternative country (Paisley Underground, X, Blasters). Other significant strains of influence that originated in the late '80s (Amphetamine Reptile Records and Riot Grrl to name but two) are largely ignored, but Azerrad acknowledges the importance of independent music retail and fanzines as a method of communication. Those who take his book to heart will hopefully realize that the most reliable method of discovery is often times D.I.Y.

- Jeffrey L. Ouch

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