What if everything you ever thought about your record collection turned out to be wrong? What if all the albums you grew up listening to—the ones that formed the soundtrack to your sad little life—were ultimately revealed to be unworthy of all the time you spent learning every lyric, every inflection, every air-drum fill? For most of us, it would be tantamount to finding out that, whatever our interpretation, God didn't really exist. Reading Kill Your Idols, a new collection of essays edited by Chicago-based music critics Jim DeRogatis and Carmél Carrillo, is a bit like having all your musical balloons burst one by painful one. It also happens to be one of the most engaging musical reads to come down the pike in a long time.
Consisting of 34 short reconsiderations and, in some cases, complete deconstructions of some of the most universally respected rock albums in history, the book takes aim at titles ranging from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and, with surprising frequency, hits the bulls eye. As a reminder that some of the albums we love as music aficionados we love simply because most everyone else claims to, the book is a work of genius. As an impetus for re-evaluating our various analyses of and conclusions about the included pieces of music, it's thought-provoking. As a debunking of our deepest personal thoughts on these records, it falls short.
Still, it's at times well-wrought, at others truly hilarious. And, occasionally, it offers truths many of us have been unwilling or unable to accept about our music. If nothing else, Kill Your Idols sheds new light—cynical as it might be—on some increasingly tired and over-referenced rock gems. And that's all well and good, except that I'm now forced to reconsider my relationships with Pet Sounds, Harvest and Exile on Main Street. I hope I'm up to the task.