Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics

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Phases & Stages

Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics

Jim DeRogatis & Carmél Carrillo, editors

Barricade Books, 304 pp., $16 (paper)

Killing your idols is a philosophical rite of passage. Forget the four-lane highway and take the road less traveled. Question authority. And yes, kill those idols. Kill Your Idols the book, however, is full of holes. Having writers deconstruct the rock album pantheon is valid, but the so-called "new generation of rock writers" trashing so-called "classic" recordings doesn't necessarily lend credence to the effort. Moreover, the author bios reveal many "Generation X and Y" writers to be baby boomers in MTV drag. The bios also list the writers' personal Top 10s, with said trashed titles popping up repeatedly.

Truth is, many of these monsters of rock deserve deflating. Who doesn't recognize Sgt. Pepper and Tommy as overproduced artifacts? Who isn't sick to death of Dark Side of the Moon? Who doesn't think Paul McCartney's Ram was execrable? Perhaps it's worth noting that the bulk of the targets were originally vinyl releases and that time hasn't been favorable, but neither are the alternatives. The Chronicle's Melanie Haupt chooses Sleater-Kinney over Patti Smith's Horses, which is fine, but in 25 years, SK will barely qualify as a footnote, while their daughters will ask, "Mom, did you ever hear Patti Smith do 'Gloria'?"

And it's not just classic rock with the red concentric circles. The book's contributors hold up Nirvana's Nevermind, Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton, and Radiohead's OK Computer as targets to prove their generation is equally capable of musical flatulence. Thing is, we already know.

Make no mistake, Kill Your Idols makes for great reading. It's brittle, illuminating, frustrating, hilarious. The alternating teeth-gnashing and jubilant cheering that goes on indicates DeRogatis probed a live nerve. After all, who wants their golden-headed idols to have feet of clay?

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