This was super enjoyable almost all the way through, and the chapters on bands I love more than compensated for those on bands I never really got intoThis was super enjoyable almost all the way through, and the chapters on bands I love more than compensated for those on bands I never really got into. Here's my ranking of the chapters based on insight, appreciation, and entertainment:
-1st: The Minutemen (sets the tone for ideals tracked throughout the book as well as the SST label model) -2nd: Black Flag (dark dank Rollins + Ginn + SST + Pettibon power) -3rd: Fugazi (great exploration of early connections to Rites of Spring, breakdown of influences, and [unavoidable] discussion of ideals and networking) -4th: Sonic Youth (again, discussion of influences and networking here is fascinating) -5th: Minor Threat (despite this being one of my all-time favorite bands, I didn't fully grasp the scale of the violence they were immersed in until reading this) -6th: Butthole Sufers (probably the most entertaining and craziest chapter) -7th: Beat Happening (I never enjoyed listening to this band but their inclusion is interesting here as it highlights reactions to hardcore and punk that were extended well through the 90s) -8th: Big Black (another band I never really got into but reading about Steve Albini is always entertaining and worthwhile) -9th: Mudhoney (the story of Sub Pop factors strongly here and there's a great overview of the early Seattle scene building towards 1991) -10th: Dinosaur Jr (yet another band I've never been into but I've always liked Sebadoh, so it was useful reading how Lou Barlow's project rose from the torture of his Dinosaur Jr experience) -11-12th: Husker Du + The Replacements (both of these chapters were fairly entertaining, but it makes me question whether two Minneapolis bands were really necessary inclusions) -13th: Mission of Burma (the most boring chapter without inspiring descriptions of the band's music and importance)
Like a lot of readers, I wondered about Azerrad's band choices and omissions, and, for me, the most questionable omission by far is The Dead Kennedys. Jello Biafra turns up a number of times in the narratives, but an entire chapter devoted to his politics (e.g. his campaign for mayor of San Francisco in 1979 and his views on corporate and Reagan America), the band’s background, and the story of Alternative Tentacles would’ve added some great California weight to the book.
Taste and experience with these bands is majorly at stake in your appreciation of Our Band Could Be Your Life, of course, but if you're into any one (or two or six) of these bands, than Azerrad's discussion of regional contexts, tour networks, tape exchanges, live spectacles, label battles, corporate debacles, band-member narratives, musical comparisons, and various strains of punk ethos makes for an exciting read. The book didn't remind me of why I love a lot of these bands as much as strengthen why they're still important to me and I still listen to them.