Kill Your Idols

A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics



Entertainment Weekly: A gang of Gen-X and -Y music critics slaughter sacred cows like Born to Run, Rumours, and Sgt. Pepper’s (“a bloated and baroque failed concept album”)—with hilarious results. Guaranteed toinfuriate any boomer rock fan.


The Los Angeles Times: Sometimes incisive, occasionally enraged and other times infuriatingly muddle-headed, “Kill Your Idols” will promote screaming, either in agreement or disagreement... But it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, right? You bought the albums. Now destroy the thing you love. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


The Village Voice: Kill Your Idols is a fun, frustrating gathering of attacks on some of rock’s most revered albums. Slaughtered sacred cows range from reliables like Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds to the recently anointed OK Computer and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, with a few head-scratchers (why Ram?). Mostly, the essays are gleeful rants that give the canon, and music writing itself, several much needed blows to the ego. But the fact that only two of the 34 records are by nonwhite musicians, and one, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, is treated with a malicious, problematic screed, suggests that the editors should have put more thought into choosing their targets. Still, what’s an identity crisis without a little pain? — Amy Phillips


HARP magazine: The subtitle says it all: “A new generation of rock writers reconsiders the classics.” Co-edited by Harp’s own Jim DeRogatis, this book is one of the surprises of the year. Sure, it’ll get your back up, but the young writers of today make some interesting points regarding some of the classics in the rock canon. If anything, their takes on your favorites just might make you understand why that unplayed copy of Rumours in your record collection has been collecting dust since 1978. Today’s music critics seem to have a love/hate affair with the music of their parents—fair enough, given that most of them probably had to grow up around pot-smoking, Journey-loving dumdums. However, as a friend so cogently pointed out, these essays fail to take into account the periods in which these albums came out. Many of the writers may not realize there was a time when kids basically chose sports or music as their passion. For those of us who chose music, many of the albums essayed here are not just pieces of music, but absolute totems of our youth. But guess what? With just a few exceptions, the authors are relatively kind. The book’s most vitriolic piece, Andy Wang’s hatchet job on MC5’s Kick Out the Jams, is the most problematic. Wang seems far more interested in tearing down certain rock critics by name and addressing the problems of the ‘60s “revolution” than in explaining why he hates the album. In fact, he seems to  have set up the band as an example of all that was wrong with that decade instead of evaluating the music itself. For the most part, the writers are nothing if not fearless. While it takes no guts at all to tear the flesh off the Eagles’ Desperado, how’d you like to be the poor sap trying to explain why Exile on Main Street or Blood on the Tracks sucks? For example, Keith Moerer’s Exile piece posits the oh-so-PC idea that “Sweet Black Angel” is “deeply offensive” to black folks. That those same Rolling Stones have never missed a chance to promote the African-American musicians they loved (and still love) on their tours apparently is of no consequence. The band’s history of touring with artists such as Ike and Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Peter Tosh, Prince and Living Colour render toothless Moerer’s humorless cries of “racism.” Complaints aside, this book is just plain fun. Thought-provoking at times, infuriating at others, this is rarely a dull read. And hey, if they piss you off that much, just check out the writers’ own Top 10s in the back of the book. Knowing that people who slag off your favorite albums prefer No Doubt, Geto Boys or Terence Trent D’Arby to Led Zeppelin, the Doors or Elvis Costello is bound to make you feel better about your own parochial tastes. — Mike Villano


The National Review: It’s a great idea that seems obvious in retrospect: Who doesn’t enjoy defying conventional wisdom, or reading something that does? (As long as your own sacred cows aren’t burned, that is.) CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW “Spirited” doesn’t come close to describing the sheer glee with which these thirty-four writers eviscerate some of your (and my) favorite albums. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


The Seattle Weekly: From the pretentiously unpretentious ramalama in Jim DeRogatis’ introduction about staying true to the most received ideas in rock criticism by smashing groupthink and overcoming nostalgia, to contributor Allison Augustyn railing against solipsism by declaring, “Rock ‘n’ roll is about making noise, not making friends,” the new collection Kill Your Idols (Barricade, $16), edited by DeRogatis and Carmél Carrillo, is the worst rock book since Joe S. Harrington’s vapid, endless Sonic Cool. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


The Santa Fe New Mexican: “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. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


The Hartford Advocate: We should have the right to say that a certain CD, though deemed a classic, isn’t necessarily what it’s all shaped up to be. That’s why I like this book so much. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


SHAKING THROUGH: Which brings us to Kill Your Idols, a collection of essays that aims to loudly expose a pantheon of rock emperors for the narcissistic nudists they really are. Partly, the concept is wrapped up in the very rock ‘n’ roll notion of rebellion; in attacking albums that have been held up as canon, the book is, in its own way, indulging in the time-honored task of taking on The Establishment. But to its credit, Kill Your Idols doesn’t simply engage in contrariness for its own sake. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


Click here to read an interview with Jim DeRogatis from


Click here to hear Jim DeRogatis talk about KILL YOUR IDOLS on WBEZ-FM in Chicago.


From F5, Wichita, Kansas: Edited by Jim DeRogatis and Carmél Carrillo, the collection asks some of rock criticism’s best minds to explain why, exactly, they hate the albums that Rolling Stone magazine shoves down our throats about every six months or so. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


From THE INDEPENDENT in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina: Kill Your Idols, a book of essays that re-examines 34 albums that have been blessed/cursed with the title “classic,” has the subtitle A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics. It could have just as easily been subtitled A Little Something to Piss Everybody Off. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


From the NEW YORK PRESS: DeRogatis and co-editor Carmel Carrillo offer a simple Nike-like premise to the cast of lambasters from Mojo, Magnet, Wired and this very paper. Skewer the classics, they direct. Beat on the baby-booming icons. Mince the moaningly hegemonistic block-rocking sacred cowering cows that have too long been too untouchable. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


From the MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE: “Kill Your Idols” (Barricade Books). Not exactly a “new generation of rock writers,” as the subtitle suggests, the ‘70s- and ‘80s-reared critics in this mean-is-fun tome offer truly fresh skewerings of some of the most sacred albums in rock. Whether you’re of the “Sgt. Pepper’s” or “Nevermind” generation, you’ll rethink the classics -- and probably even find that your favorite essays are the ones bashing your favorite albums. —Chris Riemenschneider


The NEW YORK OBSERVER takes offense at Chris Martiniano’s review of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. CLICK HERE


From FUFKIN.COM: It’s always healthy to question the orthodoxy. It’s in this spirit that Jim DeRogatis and his wife, Carmel Carrillo, put together Kill Your Idols ( A cross-section of contemporary rock critics contributed essays, explaining why they dislike an album that is generally considered a classic. The book is at turns entertaining and annoying, enlightening and dull. That is to say, it is the book equivalent of most compilation albums – hit and miss. Still, any true rock geek will want to pick it up. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


WALL STREET JOURNAL article on Baby Boomers and Killing Their Idols: Click here


From the ALBUQUERQUE TRIBUNE: Like any organized religion, rock ‘n’ roll has its own dogma. Rolling Stone magazine is the gospel. Any male singer with big lips is worth glorifying. To be a true guitar player, one must learn the intro to “Stairway to Heaven.” Elvis Presley was, is and always will be king. With those tenets come a slew of albums as holy as the Bible. “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Tommy,” “The Dark Side of the Moon” and - amen, hallelujah - “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” But it’s time, says a restless group of music critics, to look those canons straight in their beady little platinum eyes and flick them off their pedestals. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


From the LAS VEGAS WEEKLY: The concept of Kill Your Idols is an appealing one: “A collection of thirty-four essays in which each writer addresses an allegedly ‘great’ album that he or she despises.” But editor Jim DeRogatis, in his forward and in the subtitle (“a new generation of rock critics reconsiders the classics”), further presents this anthology as the young turks taking on the sacred art of the boomers. The problem is this means the authors are mostly kicking at another generation’s idols, not their own.


From BOOKLIST (starred review, June 1, 2004): Roly-poly Chicago Sun Times’ rock reviewer DeRogatis presents this collective rebuttal to the canon of great rock albums established by the graying likes of Greil Marcus (“self-appointed Dean of the Rock-Crit Academy West Coast”), Robert Christgau (“self-appointed Dean of the Rock-Crit Academy East Coast”), and Rolling Stone best-album features over the years. DeRogatis’ merry band of younger reviewers find much fault with their predecessors’ picks. There’s too much drugs and sex in the MC5’s “revolutionary” Kick Out the Jams, says Nine Inch Nails and Pet Shop Boys connoisseur Andy Wang as he questions the group’s political bona fides; that free love and free drugs were part and parcel of revolution in the MC5’s heyday seems to elude him. Keith Richards’ druggy aura taints Exile on Main Street for Keith Moerer, who otherwise favors psychedelic music. Sir Paul and the late Linda overemphasized sex on the gentle Ram, it is maintained. (Do you wonder at all what DeRogatis and “dyed-in-the-wool punk-rock chick” Lorraine Ali say about The Best of the Doors?) The Sex Pistols are slammed as a cheap commercial stunt (wasn’t that the point?), though Dave Chamberlain scores some points about Bob Marley’s diminished intensity on the TIME magazine’s album of the century, Exodus. In rock crit, bombast can be as important as defensibility, and snot-nosed stridency can be a good hook. This book probably won’t change aging rockers’ regard for the albums they love (after all, these guys even make fun of Sgt. Pepper), but it will broaden most libraries’ range in rock criticism. — Mike Tribby


From EXCLAIM! webzine: SHOTS FROM THE CANON: With my local classic rock station speciously touting itself as “playing the greatest rock ‘n ‘roll of all time,” it seems appropriate to note the recent publication of Kill Your Idols (Barricade Books), a collection of 34 essays aimed at undermining such boomer favourites as Neil Young’s Harvest and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. As the book’s co-editor Jim DeRogatis notes in the introduction, Kill Your Idols is “a defiant rejection of the hegemonic view of rock history espoused by the critics who preceded us.” CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW


An early review from Jersey Beat # 75: “In the end, Kill Your Idols may do for rock what talk radio has done for sports, and this is intensify the arguments and get more people in on the debate. I love having things stirred up no there will be hordes of people offended, delighted, confused and intrigued by this book. I was all for and I loved it.  There is little else that I hold as significant as music, and it is interesting to see how your opinions change as you mature.  Many of the authors here seemed to reflect fondly upon their youth, but as Leavitt said at the conclusion of his piece, eventually you want a car that starts in the winter.  Your punk fanaticism may wane and as he said, I guess you do grow up.  To that end, I had to smile as I read the book with the love of my life sleeping in the next room: my nine-month-old son Patrick.  Go read this and reconnect with some old favorites.” CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REVIEW