What we talk about when we talk about the Beatles vs. the Stones, Hendrix vs. Clapton, and Biggie vs. Tupac.
In his first book, music critic Hyden makes a whimsical, semiserious, somewhat wearisome personal attempt to plumb famous musical rifts for deeper truths, and he succeeds a little more than half the time. In some cases, the showdown between major acts reveals the assumptions of the audience. Is Oasis the conventional band and Blur the more discerning one, or is Oasis honest and straightforward while Blur struggles under the weight of its own pretentiousness? Is Jimi Hendrix more popular than Eric Clapton because he died young, while the surviving guitar god is doomed to shrink into mediocrity? Hyden also focuses on how musical acts are formed by their struggles and rivals, such as the way Pearl Jam was pushed in new directions by Nirvana. The author makes a fascinating case that Jack White’s famous public loathing for the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach is really about male one-upmanship and that the dustup between Miley Cyrus and Sinead O'Connor represents a generation gap between very different types of rebels, each talking past the other. Unfortunately, Hyden has less to say as the book goes along, and his attempt to make ever more off-the-wall connections becomes desperate, such as when he compares Roger Waters and his estranged band mates in Pink Floyd to Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien; or when he decides the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan and Pavement's Stephen Malkmus are kind of like Nixon and JFK. There's certainly an autobiographical element to all this, as Hyden tries to squeeze life lessons of maturity from every battle, but he ultimately comes off sounding older rather than wiser. Other rivalries explored include Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West, Toby Keith vs. the Dixie Chicks, and Prince vs. Michael Jackson.
A pop-culture journey to self-realization that makes some intriguing stops before it runs out of gas.