Tag Archives: book

If you want it enough, their band could be your life

26 May

wake up in the van
drink a beer
write a song
mail the fuzzy tape of it to your sound engineer- who’s your cousin
drive 8 hours to the next venue on the tour
eat a slice of pizza purchased for you by one of your few fans, knowing you wouldn’t have eaten otherwise.
blow fan’s ears and what was between them to smithereens at your show
give an interview for a hardcore music ‘zine
fight with your bandmates
get drunk together and make up (unless you’re straight edge, in which case you might just sulk) 
get back in the van
do it again

The period from 1981 to 1991 was dominated by Reaganism, new wave, punk bands knocking off one another, and musical acts that were more about style than about substance.  But for the bands profiled in Michael Azerrad in Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991, it was a time to incubate true independence- to learn to live as an artist and a human being without the gilded trappings of shitty mainstream music.  It was not the birth of the American Underground, but it was a damned significant period of music and scene-making for bands in the punk, art rock, noise, hardcore, experimental and downright undefinable scenes.

The 2001 tome’s title Our Band Could Be Your Life comes from a lyric in The Minutemen’s subtly funky punk song “History Lesson Part II.”  The Minutemen are a working class band from San Pedro, California, whose career was depressingly cut short by the death of bandmate D. Boon in a car accident (fuck those, man).  Their aesthetic was to “jam econo,” that is, to do everything as cheaply and affordably as possible.  They lugged and set up their own equipment for their whole careers, and kept day jobs for most of them.

That concept of jamming econo, of doing it yourself from the album art to booking the tours to writing the songs to fixing your van to starting your own record labels (see SST and Dischord, among others), is what allows the scene to get by.  Not to flourish, mind you, but to start a club of people who could get a casette tape from a friend or hear a totally new sound on a college radio station, who appreciated creativity without definitions, a club who reconvened in all the smelly clubs for all the rocking shows.

The scene was about originality.  Profiling Black Flag, The Minutemen, Mission of Burma, Minor Threat, Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Big Black, Dinosaur Jr, Fugazi, Mudhoney, and Beat Happening, among other bands, Azerrad depicts a collaborative, broke, highly artistic musical underground that doesn’t exist in the same way today.  Yet ask many musicians currently working, and they’ll tell you how much the legacies of these bands (a few of whom are still playing today) and the knowledge from this book influenced them to start bands.  Admittedly short on women, Our Band Could Be Your Life can be read well with books like Sara Marcus’s Girls to the Front– in terms of timelines one leads into the next.

Which is to say, we couldn’t have the American Indie (and semi-independent) scene we have today without ’80s and early ’90s predecessors.  Thanks for forging ahead, and teaching us how to jam – and live – econo.

Recommended read, though maybe a bit too hefty for a beach read.  Have a rocking holiday weekend everyone!


A Gmail Chat Book Review of Tao Lin’s Richard Yates

10 Feb

What constitutes illicit sex for a generation with no rules? reads the back of the book jacket.

Richard Yates by Tao Lin. Image via Melville House Publishing, http://www.mhpbooks.com.

“Possible responses to Tao Lin’s novel Richard Yates,” I typed in Gmail chat or possibly on my blog.

“I could be sad about all the talk of Dakota and Haley killing themselves”

“I could pity real-life Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment for having their names dragged through the anxiety disordered mud of central New Jersey”

“I could worry about my teenage little sister who gave me this book and how she must have also spent some hours reading about an obsessive, joyless (except the one instance of Haley Joel Osment smiling, in Florida [yes, the characters full names are used almost exclusively]) relationship in which a man asks a girl for all of her daily activities every day and that is the bulk of their relationship”

“I could feel gratitude for a writer who frees young writers from the interesting yet ultimately limiting nature of constant grammatic policing and thoughtfully literary literature via the device of Gmail chat conversations as dialogue”

“’I should just kill myself’”

“I could chew out the sort of 23-year-old male character/being who chooses to date a 17-year-old female and ignores the precarious power imbalance in their relationship, in fact exacerbating her various disorders by discouraging her from pursuing treatment and frankly being abusive”

“I might question the legal implications of using unrelated, ‘real’ names of people as characters and author as book title, and muse on how these creative commons – or not – issues relate to my own work”

“I could binge-eat and puke à la ‘Dakota Fanning’”

“I could laugh. There were funny parts.”

“I could wish to have a love or love-imitating relationship in which many hand-made goods are exchanged, but probably without the exclusive focus in life of making hand-made goods and emailing photos of stolen organic products”

“I could marvel about how for an ‘exciting new voice in experimental fiction,’ which I had been eager to read or maybe to say I had read, the prose is very straightforward. But not shitty.”

“I will mail the book to my metafiction friend

“I will accept the novel’s disparaging comment on humanity, or at least young humanity in twenty-first century America, and reach out by

updating my ‘Current City’ to ‘Atlanta.’”


Miranda July says:

“Tao Lin writes from moods that less radical writers would let pass– from laziness, from vacancy, from boredom. And it turns out that his report from these places is moving and necessary, not to mention frequently hilarious.”


Wheatus/The U. Orchestra of Great Britain says:

Holiday Wish List

27 Nov

From tending bar to passing the bar, the creative-ass ladies at Bust have come up with an ultimate guide to doing life yourself.

The Bust DIY Guide to Life: Making Your Way Through Every Day, the new book by Debbie Stoller and Laurie Henzel, covers a crazy wide range of topics.  Its superuseful how-tos are shared in Bust’s characteristic sassy, feminist, belly-laugh-out-loud terms of femmedearment.

So if you’re wondering what to give for the holidays – just get this for yourself!  Then you can make a homemade present for each bff, family member, acquaintance and frenemy on your list.

snag your copy of The Guide.