Rock criticism is an aging rebel facing the threat of becoming an old fart. Two new anthologies find the genre questioning and reinventing itself while struggling to maintain some sort of relevance.
LIT RIFFS: WRITERS ‘COVER’ SONGS THEY LOVE
Edited by Matthew Miele
MTV Books/Pocket Books, 420 pp., $13.95
This collection of pop-song-inspired stories posits fiction as an effective critical form. Though uneven, it succeeds in changing the way these tunes are heard: You’re never going to listen to Springsteen’s “Spirit in the Night” again without thinking of Julianna Baggott’s devastating take on Crazy Janie’s perspective, and Darin Strauss’s downwardly mobile Black Crowes fans leave an unforgettable mark on that band’s “Remedy.”
KILL YOUR IDOLS: A NEW GENERATION OF ROCK WRITERS RECONSIDERS THE CLASSICS
Edited by Jim DeRogatis and Carmél Carrillo
Barricade Books, 304 pp., $16
Kill Your Idols is a fun, frustrating gathering of attacks on some of rock’s most revered albums. Slaughtered sacred cows range from reliables like Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds to the recently anointed OK Computer and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, with a few head-scratchers (why Ram?). Mostly, the essays are gleeful rants that give the canon, and music writing itself, several much needed blows to the ego. But the fact that only two of the 34 records are by nonwhite musicians, and one, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, is treated with a malicious, problematic screed, suggests that the editors should have put more thought into choosing their targets. Still, what’s an identity crisis without a little pain?