A well-done, thoroughly detailed look at the stories behind the music that captures both the heart and the eccentricity of...

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OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE

SCENES FROM THE AMERICAN INDIE UNDERGROUND 1981-1991

A substantial, elegantly rendered assessment of the “indie rock” era, a modest and disheveled American musical underground that presaged its nemesis, the 1990s “alternative” explosion.

Music journalist Azerrad (Come as You Are, not reviewed, etc.) has an insider’s savvy in documenting this most insider-ish genre, 1980s-era indie: energetic, abrasive post-punk bands that barnstormed small US and European clubs, dependent on a low-budget network of labels and fanzines for survival. The author portrays a national movement composed of thriving regional scenes, with bands, small record shops, and college-radio programmers finding common ground outside the commercial realm. He focuses on the histories of 13 “emblematic bands of that incredible time” whose often hilarious stories indeed sum up the pre-alternative rock days of touring in vans and sleeping on floors. His accounts of the bands are ordered chronologically, providing a rough narrative of the rock underground’s collision with the mainstream. Early “hardcore” bands such as L.A.’s Black Flag treated the established order with contempt (resulting in their famed clashes with police), while out-there Texas rockers Butthole Surfers were embraced by punks for their compellingly weird, puerile antics. Significant bands like the Minutemen, Mission of Burma, and Big Black had their trajectories cut short, yet their innovations reverberated throughout the scene. Later in the ’80s, bands like Minneapolis power-pop trio Hüsker Dü and the perpetually intoxicated Replacements flirted with major labels and collegiate success, only to have their careers derailed by corporate meddling. Finally, the most survival-minded of the indie bands either approached the mainstream on their own terms (early Nirvana boosters Sonic Youth), or resolutely carved out their own uncompromised territory (Fugazi). Azerrad’s approach necessarily overlooks the countless little-known rock powerhouses that defined the movement’s grassroots, and he describes the indie labels’ and enthusiasts’ anti-corporate, self-sustaining ethos without really seeming to promote or approve of it.

A well-done, thoroughly detailed look at the stories behind the music that captures both the heart and the eccentricity of outsider rock’s golden age.

Pub Date: July 31, 2001

ISBN: 0-316-06379-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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