It!: Collected Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the '90s," by
Jim DeRogatis.Da Capo Press, 410 pp. $17.95.
Just three years into the '00s, it seems a little premature to be sizing
up the last decade's place in music history. Yet Chicago Sun-Times rock
scribe Jim DeRogatis makes a valiant stab at it with "Milk It!," a
compilation of a decade's worth of interviews, features and reviews he
penned for publications such as Request, Spin, Option, Salon and, of course,
Assembled in thematic chapters, the book opens, naturally, with a series
of Nirvana pieces, the most entertaining of which focuses on the late Kurt
Cobain's wife, Courtney Love, with whom DeRogatis seems to have a love-hate
relationship. While a couple of other bands merit their own chapters — Pearl
Jam and Smashing Pumpkins — most of the book's segments detail broader
subjects, from Chicago's rock scene to hip-hop, the Lollapalooza nation and
fringe acts like Jesus Lizard and the Orb.
DeRogatis, who also wrote this year's Lester Bangs biography, tries to
link together these disparate essays into a larger commentary on the '90s'
alt-rock revolution, but doesn't quite pull it off — in large part because
many of the pieces here are short reviews of CDs or concerts, essays that
lack the heft of some of the author's meatier and more personal passages.
Parts of the book are simply lacking: A chapter on titans R.E.M. and U2
features ample perspective on the former, but when it comes to the latter,
there's a just brief review of a 1992 concert and a paragraph apiece about
each of the band's albums. And you've got to wonder about a rock critic who
lists the Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy as one of the 90 best
albums of the '90s; the record was released in 1985.
While an entertaining read, "Milk It!" suffers the same fate as so many
other compendiums of previously published material. It's one thing to write
a comprehensive overview of a subject like '90s rock. It's an altogether
trickier proposition to make that same point by cramming together a bunch of
unrelated pieces. That's why Michael Azzerad's "Our Band Could Be Your Life"
is so much more successful in laying the foundation for the last decade's
explosion of alternative rock — even though that book is set in the '80s.
— MATT SEBASTIAN/Camera Music Writer