Get Lit: Your Band Sucks

The Rise And Fall Of Indie Music

August March
4 min read
Your Band Sucks
Share ::
Dude, your band, like totally sucks. At least it did until some sleazy A&R reps, a few sketchy promoters and social media constructs of the early 21st century got a hold of it. Then everything was golden, the kids loved you, tweeted your name, image and catalog to infinity and back. Oh, and you all made a gazillion bucks and parted the best of friends. The end.

It would be nice if every band’s rocanrol story was that successful, but it never is.

Even in the midst of musical revolutions, it’s a complicated business. Jon Fine’s memoir
Your Band Sucks (Viking; hardcover; $27.95) makes that point clear as the author explores the rise and fall of indie music in the late ’80s and ’90s.

In those halcyon days, before the triumph of the internet, bands such as Fine’s first foray, Bitch Magnet, depended on types of networking nearly unknown to today’s sonic successors. They toured relentlessly, made use of hand-printed materials, visited the record stores prominent in the era and sent out tapes to college radio stations across the continent.

Fine uses this anachronistic sounding set of strategies to conjure and then critique the sea change that took place. As it crossed over from the baroque setting of the late ’70s and into the stripped-down period of supposed revolution and redemption that followed at century’s end, rock revisited its roots and built awesome wings with which to fly. Unfortunately, the whole damn thing flew too close to the sun. The resulting cataclysm is still clearly evident, according to the author.

Fine begins his mission by invoking the horror hidden below the surface of ’80s pop produced by Debbie Gibson and Billy Idol—while musing on the unknown greatness of acts like Hüsker Dü and The Wipers.

Although he compensates by mentioning “quality” bands like U2 and Springsteen, his dismissive tone toward Brits like Tears for Fears leaves readers to speculate about the nature and depth of Fine’s aesthetics. Yeah, the dude is a guitarist, I get that. He’s a punk rock guitarist, I get that too. But his dislike for keyboard-based rock comes across as revelatory and essential when it’s really just an opinion based on personal preference.

Personal experience and preference become the center of this memoir, as Fine recounts how he came into possession of a van, the touring habits of the famous and infamous, and the consequent suffering he endured in the name of his art.

It’s familiar territory for anyone who’s even mildly interested in the history of rock music, but Fine remakes the whole schmear as his own history. This personalization of a cultural phenomenon is not without precedence; sometimes it works to great effect in the book, as when the author begins a benighted apologia about his involvement in the scene near the end. But often—as when Fine tells the story of discovering the filthiest tour van ever—it becomes just another war story by just another grizzled veteran of psychic wars.

Your Band Sucks is a fun read, filled—as rocanrol memoirs often are—with a blazing amount of drugs, sex and on-the-road hijinks. Though it sets out to make powerful commentary on the failure of the music industry past and present, as well as the glory of all things intrinsically indie, the book ends up as a generously detailed yet narcissistic glance at a revolution that never was.
1 2 3 316