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Book Review: Why Your Band Sucks

Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear). Jon Fine. New York: Viking, 2015.

 

imgresJon Fine’s memoir Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear) chronicles the author’s career as a second tier rock star and reflects on the growth and significance of the music industry in the 1990s. Fine, who is now the executive editor of Inc. magazine, was the guitarist and song writer for a number of bands, including the one he loved best: Bitch Magnet.

Bitch Magnet formed while the members were students at Oberlin College and was active from 1986 until 1990. During those years, the band produced three albums, a few singles, and managed to tour all over the world. Fine makes these years sound grueling, hopeless, romantic and totally fun. Fine’s memoir is full of tales of marathon sleeplessness, cramming himself uncomfortably into a rusty, stinky old van, arguing with promoters and club owners and worrying constantly about all the money that he was losing as a touring musician without any other gainful employment. Fine usually resists glamorizing this experience, and mostly strives to honestly recount the sacrifice and mistakes that he encountered on the road.

Fine is clearly an expert in this era of music. His book includes encyclopedic descriptions of the many bands that shaped his genre, the record labels and the multitude of personnel who operated behind the scenes. He draws mainly from his own memory, but also from recent conversations and interviews with other musicians and from fans. He seems to have known everyone in the 90s Indie music scene and lovingly divulges all sorts of personal stories about the members of LCD Soundsystem, Freshkills, Slint, Bastro and many many more. He recounts wonderful stories about the All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival, CBGBs, Kokie’s Place and the Bowery Ballroom, places and events so integral to the Indie music scene but all but forgotten now.

This book is engagingly written. His style is witty, personal, honest and eloquent. It’s a tough book to put down, as his anecdotes can be so compelling. This would be an interesting book to assign for a writing class. Despite its abrasive title and occasionally condescending tone, this memoir makes no attempt to glorify or sanitize its author. Fine confesses to all his foibles and errors and snobberies and mostly comes face to face with his love of an age and genre long gone.

Katherine Allocco

Western Connecticut State University


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