Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 by Michael Azerra
This book covers the history of a quite a few (but by no means a complete listing of) important indie/punk/hardcore bands: Butthole Surfers, Mission of Burma, Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Big Black, Dinosaur Jr., Black Flag, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Husker Du, The Replacements, Beat Happening and Mudhoney. Those who are into any of the bands covered by this book should probably at least flip through it in a bookstore. The danger of course is that reading something about a moderately unfamiliar band can lead to fondness and back catalogue purchases of bands long ignored or simply missed the first time around. I am now the proud owner of Mission of Burma's oeuvre (as well as a bunch of other albums I hadn't heard before). Overall the book is an entertaining read, but uneven. Some band's chapters are rock solid and a good read all throughout — Butthole Surfers' is particularly entertaining — but some of his choices of focus are unusual (Beat Happening? WTF?) and flimsy excuses to bring up non-sequiturs (Mudhoney's chapter is essentially SubPop's chapter, really). Minor Threat AND Fugazi getting separate chapters seemed overkill to me, and there are notable absences in the stories — I understand that maybe Gibby Haynes or whoever, didn't want to give an interview, but there are repeated instances of missing members from bands (no Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag, or George Hurley from the Minutemen) as well as quite a few bands that should have been mentioned that weren't (no Bad Brains, Dead Kennedy's, Meat Puppets, Pixies, The Melvins, Circle Jerks, X, Germs, Descendents, SWANS, Flaming Lips or Misfits). Which isn't to say that the book is bad; it's just not as good or complete as I would have liked. When Azerrad is on, the storytelling can be quite engaging and will, as I say, make any reader eager to be listening to the music that's being described. When he's not on, the writing is just dull. It's worth looking at, but it's not a be-all end-all book about the indie scene in the 80's and if I had my 'druthers there'd be a second book featuring the bands he missed in this book.