Kill Your Idols seemed like a good idea when I bought the book, offering up the chance for a younger set of rock critics to give a counter argument to the well-made assertions of the essayists from the early Rolling Stone/Crawdaddy/Village Voice days who are finely tuned critiques gave us what we consider now to be the Rock Canon. The problem, though, is that editor Jim Derogatis didn't have that in mind when he gathered up this assortment of Angry Young Critics and changed them with disassembling the likes of Pink Floyd, The Beatles, the MC5; countering a well phrased and keenly argued position requires an equally well phrased alternative view and one may go so far as to suggest the fresher viewpoint needs to be keener, finer, sharper. Derogatis, pop and rock music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, author of the estimable Lester Bangs biography Let It Blurt, had worked years ago as record review editor of Rolling Stone and found himself getting fired when he couldn't abide by publisher Jan Wenner's policy of not giving unfavorable reviews to his favorite musicians.His resentment toward Wenner and Rolling Stone's institutional claims of being a power broker as far as rock band reputations were concerned is understandable, but his motivation is more payback than a substantial refutation of conventional wisdom. The Angry Young Critics were too fast out of the starting gate and in a collective haste to bring down the walls of the Rock Establishment wind up being less the Buckley or the Vidal piercing pomposity and pretension than, say, a pack of small yapping dogs barking at anything passing by the backyard fence. The likes of Christgau, Marcus, and Marsh provoke you easily enough to formulate responses of your own, but none of the reviews have the makings of being set aside as a classic of a landmark debunking; there is not a choice paragraph or phrase one comes away with. Even on albums that I think are over-rated, such as John Lennon's Double Fantasy, you think they're hedging their bets; a writer wanting to bring Lennon's post-Beatles reputation down a notch would have selected the iconic primal scream album Plastic Ono Band (to slice and dice. But the writers here never bite off more than they can chew; sarcasm, confessions of boredom and flagging attempts at devil's advocacy make this a noisy, nitpicky book who's conceit at offering another view of Rock and Roll legacy contains the sort of hubris these guys and gals claim sickens them. This is a collection of useless nastiness, a knee-jerk contrarianism of the sort that one overhears in bookstores between knuckle dragging dilettantes who cannot stand being alive if they can't hear themselves bray. Yes, Kill Your Idols is that annoying, an irritation made worse but what could have been a fine project. What this collection comes down to is not a symposium on overrated albums or a critique of the corporate machinery that usurps youthful enthusiasms and makes it a collection of generic sloganeering and nose-thumbing at The Man--it's a long, repetitive, sour grapes infused bitched session among a gathering of young pop music scribes who have collectively missed their chance to add perspective to the canon-creating cant that has destroyed most mainstream rock writing. There is, in fact, no criticism at all, in the sense that you'd like to witness ideas expanded upon, taken apart, scrutinized and interrogated, what poet Billy Collins would say is the equivalent of tying an idea to a chair and beating it with a rubber hose until it yields other hard revelations that give the lie to the dreamy assumptions one initially had when regarding a favorite album from a supposed Rock Canon. This book is a car full of drunk teens sticking their butts out of car windows while speeding down Fraternity Row.
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