The short shelf of great books on indie rock adds another—an unlikely memoir about an obscure band that somehow found demand for its reunion in the Internet age.
Fine is the executive editor of Inc. and an award-winning journalist with a successful career—certainly more successful in terms of money and renown than he was as the guitarist of Bitch Magnet, a noisy band that never achieved the cult status of, say, Mission of Burma but attracted loyal partisans, a fan base that perhaps became larger and more passionate over the decades that the band was on hiatus. The author divides his memoir into three books: Book 1 is the standard proclamation of love for punk’s power and indie’s promise, of bonding with like-minded music nerds and forming a band, of living mostly out of a van but coming alive on stage. This was the only time that the three musicians really communicated, so Fine was surprised to learn he had been booted from the band (and later invited to rejoin). In Book 2, there are other bands and developments, as indie rock was expanding from a secret world of fanzines and college radio into a realm in which “what had started out as free and welcoming ended up becoming as rigid and rule-bound as everything I’d hoped it would replace.” The real revelation is Book 3, in which the Internet changes everything, challenging the major-label system far more effectively than indie rock ever had but also creating cybercommunities where the music and legacies of the likes of Bitch Magnet renewed themselves, resulting in reunions that Fine and other fans had never anticipated. So there’s a happy ending of sorts, as the author finds himself balancing life as a married man and prosperous journalist with the rigors of international touring as a middle-aged guitarist.
“I don’t regret a thing,” writes Fine, and neither will readers who live vicariously through the author’s eyes and memory.