Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: Jon Fine - Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear)

Prior to reading Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear), I had never heard of Jon Fine or his main band, Bitch Magnet. What's truly great about the memoir is that unlike most music biographies or memoirs, you really don't have to. While it does focus on Fine's experiences starting an aggressive, fairly experimental indie rock band in the 80s and 90s, it's written primarily as a music fan with insider information. This makes it perfect for anyone with interest in the 80s and 90s indie rock scene, and more along the lines of Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 than a typical musician's memoir.

Since Jon Fine makes his living nowadays primarily as a journalist rather than a musician (he's appeared in BusinessWeek, The Atlantic, and GQ, and is an editor at Inc. magazine), this might be the best written musician memoir I've ever read. It focuses more on the feeling and emotion of discovering new music and being part of the indie community than it does on separate events. Plus, Fine is a huge music snob, which will make any reader of this blog happy. He presents opinions of bands as facts rather than opinions (He really doesn't seem to like the Pixies) which I'm guilty of more than anyone else I know. Plus, he talks about the issue of getting aging music fans to come out to a show when they might have work the next day or need to get a babysitter. This is pretty much one of this blog's mission statements, so it's quite relevant to our readers.

Fine also gets into the financial reasons a ton of smaller bands broke up in the late 90s and early 00s. I don't think I've ever heard of higher rents associated with the housing boom vs aging and dwindling audiences as a factor ever before, but it makes perfect sense. He also interviews fellow musicians such as Clint Conley of Mission of Burma and Lou Barlow from Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr, which helps this feel more like it's about the scene than just a memoir. It also documents Bitch Magnet's semi-successful reunion tour in the 10s. I know we can all relate to his experiences with band reunions.

If you love the 80s and 90s indie rock scene, you'll need to read Your Band Sucks. It perfectly states what it was like discovering this bizarro music that barely anyone you knew had ever heard about, and then discovering fellow fans. It truly captures the excitement and community you felt. Plus, Fine is the only other one I've ever heard complain about having a great old school t-shirt collection that is now out of fashion since no one wears XL anymore.

Your Band Sucks: What I Sat at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear) is out tomorrow on Viking. You can order it from Amazon. Also, do yourself a favor and seek out Bitch Magnet's music. They're my new favorite band I'm roughly 20 years late for.

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