The Santa Fe New Mexican (New Mexico)
July 25, 2004 Sunday

It's a tradition as old as mankind itself, probably: The younger generation grows up and trashes everything their parents hold dear.

This is the theme of Kill Your Idols, edited by Jim DeRogatis and Carmél Carrillo (Barricade Books, $16), in which "a new generation of rock writers reconsiders the classics," according to the subtitle. Well, Pepsi has been billing itself as "the choice of a new generation" for something like 40 years and it's still No. 2, so forgive my skepticism. It might be the rule for the younger generation to shove aside the old and take over, but they're not always right. Or have good taste.

"Why should anything be accepted as dogma in an art form (the devil's music, no less!) that, at best, is about questioning everything?" says DeRogatis in the foreword. "A lot of people don't think this way; a lot of people don't like to think, period. Baby Boomers, the largest generation in American history ... are particularly prone to safeguarding works whose values they adopted as articles of faith in their youth, even though said youth is now several decades behind them."

Ah, the younger generation, so cute, so naive -- and not entirely wrong, either.

DeRogatis -- pop music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times (these critics are young, not necessarily alternative) -- admits to understanding what rock can do to a teenager in his essay about St. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band: "... I'll grant these boys the fact that everybody was listening to this album. Big deal, so what: What were they hearing?" (Emphasis his.) Fair question.

In defense of boomer taste, I will say Sgt. Pepper hit so hard was because it lifted us out of rock 'n' roll of sappy lyrics, insipid melodies and the same ol', same ol' one-two beat. At last, rock that was different, imaginative. So what if we took our joy too far, spilling over into kitsch. It's what my generation does best. While granting the album does suffer from too much technical meddling, I say his rant about a harpsichord -- "The very symbol of the baroque and Victorian!" -- on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is mere whining.

But I'm not here to argue point-by-point with these folks over their wisdom or savvy. (Really.) The other essays, while not quite as strident as DeRogatis, do make some excellent points. Keith Moerer, after giving us juicy details about the making of the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St., praises a couple of songs, faintly damns others and disses one in particular: "I'll take any of the songs ... over Exile on Main St.'s lowest moment, "Sweet Black Angel," a deeply offensive "tribute" to black radical Angela Davis that combines lovely acoustic guitar, light, lilting marimbas, and a jaw-dropping set of blackface lyrics ..."

Jeff Nordstedt discusses the background of and the problems with the Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys (It "... is a completely cerebral work of art ..." and "... lacks the visceral charge that is found in great rock music.") Steve Knopper takes on The Who's Tommy ("It has its charms, but it's best if you accept it as camp and laugh at its indulgences.") Andy Wang argues that MC5's Kick Out the Jams really doesn't make any sense. Adrian Brijbassi describes the horror of being told the only reason a girl danced with him was because Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin was playing.

I was never a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but Leanne Potts, pop-culture writer for the Albuquerque Journal who was born in raised in Alabama, explains why the group's album, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd, is offensive to Southerners. Kim Walsh serves up a fantasy on assassinating the members of Fleetwood Mac during a concert. Bizarre, yes, but -- understandable.

So it goes. Some of the albums included here are surprises because of their iconic status -- Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon; Bob Marley and the Wailers, Exodus; Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run and Born in the U.S.A.; U2, The Joshua Tree; Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks. Others are here because they deserve it -- Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks ... Here's the Sex Pistols; Paul and Linda McCartney, Ram. Others are a surprise because they're not boomer music -- Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of a Million to Hold us Back; Nirvana, Nevermind; Radiohead, OK Computer; Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

The contributors list their own 10 favorites and surprise -- some list the very records criticized by the others, showing that this really is a subjective game. Still, for the contributors, not a bad job overall. As a boomer to the next generation, though, just wait until, heh-heh, your kids start trashing your icons.