Autumn Rhythm

Music books for the holidays





Milk It! Collected Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the 90's

by Jim DeRogatis
Da Capo Press, 409 pp., $17.95

Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis endeared himself to under-40 music writers everywhere with a widely circulated e-mail excoriating Rolling Stone Publisher (and his former boss) Jann S. Wenner's five-star review of Mick Jagger's 2001 dog Goddess in the Doorway.

That e-mail is about the only thing not included in this expansive tome, but Wenner gets his when DeRogatis details his firing from RS for daring to give Hootie & the Blowfish's execrable 1996 album, Fairweather Johnson, a mere two stars. Like his idol Lester Bangs, DeRogatis (now 39) has a violent allergy to music-biz cronyism, A&R doublespeak, and baby boomer narcissism. He refers to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, for example, as "a mighty mountain of crap."

Dozens of concise, probing profiles and reviews cover the waterfront of Nineties rock, from the top of the heap (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Jane's Addiction); through loads of Chicagoland color like Liz Phair, Steve Albini, the Jesus Lizard, Veruca Salt, and Red Red Meat; to the bottom of the barrel (Courtney Love, Bush, Woodstock '94). Even if the bulk of his most provocative writing comes from Request magazine and various weeklies (Chicago Reader, BAM, Minneapolis' City Pages), a Sun-Times Q&A with Third Eye Bland singer Stephan Jenkins is almost as hilarious as his reviewing a Smashing Pumpkins show from outside the club. (Seems his calling an SP lyric "sophomoric" stuck in Billy Corgan's craw.)

So what if he's as enamored of Wire, the Feelies, and shoegazers as nemesis Wenner is of Jagger? DeRogatis is one of the most candid, passionate, skilled, and entertaining music scribes working today. In fact, Milk It! comes dangerously close to making rock critic sound like a downright respectable occupation.

-- Christopher Gray