Book Reviews

Your Band Sucks: What I Saw At Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear) (Penguin)

your band sucks

Your Band Sucks: What I Saw At Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear)
Jon Fine
Penguin

“What’s worse than selling out? Selling out and failing!” — Peter Bagge

Jon Fine never sold out. He never even thought of selling out. It was something he was never going to do.  It’s just as well, as “they” were never going to give him the opportunity to do so; his music wasn’t sellout-able. Yet for so many musicians of his era—young, idealistic, independent-minded musicians content on doing their own thing—it wasn’t the hopes of making a ton of money or having hit songs on the radio—it was stability; the ability to produce their art as a sustainable, full-time project, a demand for one thing never promised to the creative: job security.

This doesn’t mean Fine—author of the hilarious, informative, and insightful new book, Your Band Sucks: What I Saw At Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear)—was devoid of talent, or that everything he did was doomed to no-hoper status. His first major group, Bitch Magnet, was somewhat successful in the underground—albeit posthumously, thanks to the more successful work of members Sooyoung Park and David Grubbs. Fine’s bands after that never quite obtained that level, and like many college-age musicians, his guitar would quietly move into the background as he moved on to more lucrative professional work.

Ultimately, though, Your Band Sucks isn’t about music, it isn’t about punk rock or indie rock or what have you. Instead, it’s a wonderfully vivid, often hilarious coming-of-age tale of a talented young man seeking out his place in the world. It’s the journey from young idealist to somewhat jaded twenty something to wised-up thirty-something, The early tours and the frustrations with bandmates and making music nobody hears, Fine is, well, fine with them, and by the demise of his most recent band, he’s reached an almost Zen-like level of acceptance. He’s not troubled that his band has ended, but is more bothered by the fact that he’s reached a stage where he is wise enough to know that it is time to call it a day—and that, in spite of his decades of rock and roll experience, said band breaks up in an ugly, impersonal way, which he chalks up as his continuing legacy of terrible interpersonal communication.

And in spite of these negatives, Fine still loves making music, and Your Band Sucks concludes on a happy note—the reunion of his beloved Bitch Magnet, a band that ended with acrimony but reunited with a love for their music and an appreciation for the times that birthed them in the first place. For those readers who were there the first time around, this book will remind you of the ‘good old days.’ For those who came of age after the new millennium, this is an enjoyable, wistful, and often laugh-out loud funny glimpse into how things used to be in the “underground,” Regardless of where you might fall between those two camps, Your Band Sucks is a delight, and is easily one of the best rock and roll books all year.

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