|02.27.22|| So, it's getting harder and harder to come up with gift suggestions to my family for birthdays and holidays. I now understand a bit more about my dad from his perspective vs. an entire childhood of taking wild swings for his gifts. I'm just in that mode where if I want something I'll get it. I'm thankful to mostly have the means to do that, and my tastes in hobbies are affordable enough to allow that. So a good gift would now have to be something I've never thought about, which is pretty tough since my family is distributed and we almost never see each other. So it's a bi-annual ritual for me to try and stock up an amazon wishlist with ideas for things that I wouldn't mind getting that they could pull from for gifts... and some years even that is tough. It's through this process that I wound up with 3 more books about the NYC music scene. Before it there was the amazing Life and Death on the Dance Floor which exhaustively documented the post-punk, new wave, no wave, and dance club scene from 1980 - 1983. That book, which is like 600 pages devoted to something amazingly specific, has really stuck with me over the years and had a pretty massive influx of music that I really love. So it was mostly that book that led me to add a line-up of similar books to the wishlist, all of which sat on a shelf until I was ready to take another dive. Of the three, I chose this one due to it having input from James Murphy and other LCD Soundsystem / DFA Records people. This is about the indie rock scene in the lower east side and brooklyn from 2001 to 2011, ending with LCD and The Strokes playing Madison Square Garden back to back. I figured it's just as specific and while it had a few extra years to cover with its 600 pages, it was an oral history which I've always been a fan of.
At first it was pretty overwhelming. While I knew and loved LCD for that decade and was aware of another major band in the book (The Strokes), the vast majority of people and bands I didn't really know. So the beginning of the book dealt a lot with flipping back to the Cast of Characters index to figure out who the hell these people were. I suppose I didn't have to... there's a certain go-with-it vibe you can choose to embrace where each comment stands on its own merit, but really it's always better to know who it is saying what they're saying so that slowed me down a bit. But once I basically had that list memorized, the book really took off. Even bands I don't particularly love (like Interpol) or have only heard one or two songs from (like TV on the Radio) were still interesting to hear about how their stories intertwined to create this "scene."
And what's more, this book wound up talking about the specific era where the Internet hit and the difference between the kids who grew up without it vs. those that did; what that was like. As a late Gen-X-er, I completely idenfify with this (cue Losing My Edge: "I was there!"), so that really struck some chords.
I wound up really liking this and using it as an excuse to check out many of the bands discussed. While my opinions didn't change for some (Interpol), I did discover (jonathan fire-eater) or re-discover (yeah yeah yeahs) some really good stuff.
As you could've seen, something like 70% of the book is 1999 - 2004, so the back half of the decade is a little rushed. Many of the bands (Grizzly Bear, Vampire Weekend) wind up on the periphery as the book makes the final dash to get to the finish line, but I guess the thousand-page version of this book is a harder sell.
Selfishly, I got all the dirt on what happened with the split between James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy (who initially made up the remixing duo "the DFA"). I also got plenty of the heroin and drug stories and that kind of deal. Rockstar stuff. But I think Goodman did a great job of including interviews from across the spectrum here, from the musicians themselves to the record label people, journalists, and scene-ster pals who were along for the ride. It's not really mentioned in the book proper but much of the press about the book talks about the fact that Goodman herself was part of that scene, was friends with The Strokes and roommates or partners with a couple of the interviewees. That probably helped her with access but also can't help but flavor the book with her personal experience, since I bet the majority of the word count consciously or sub-consciously went to the stuff that she was closest to. And that's good. The early 80s book felt almost academic in its dry documentation of month-by-month trends, sample setlists, and obscure club descriptions. This is much more flavor-full and impressionistic. Not as much an authoritative document as a late-night conversation over beers.
And on the serendipity front: when i really got into this and started looking up press interviews and related materials for it, i found that the guys who made the LCD doc just adapted this into a movie that screened at sundance. It sucks that I just missed the virtual screening by weeks but it's cool to know that sooner or later I'll get to see a film adaptation of this to perhaps attach songs and faces to the names in the book.
So... yeah. this wound up being quite a great book I think.|