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Spin Alternative Record Guide Paperback – October 10, 1995
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A guide to the world of alternative music in all its variety and weirdness, from the earliest influences to the latest bands. Provides in-depth and informative record reviews and discussions of such phenomena as the New Zealand sound, alternative hip-hop, and the secret history of women in punk. The book also includes a sure-to-be controversial listing of what they consider to be the top 100 alternative albums of all time, and top-ten lists from such artists as Joey Ramone and Kurt Bloch. Despite some questionable additions (Cindi Lauper?) and glaring omissions (where is Game Theory?), it remains an indispensable guide.
From Library Journal
So much of the popular music released these days is billed as "alternative" that it's tough to locate the mainstream without really looking. The proliferation of these alternatives notwithstanding, this guide fills a gap in the literature of modern music. Where else are you going to find the complete discographies of Trobbing Gristle and Jonathan Richman under the same cover? Maybe in the Rolling Stone Album Guide (Random, 1992), but not with the length and scope of the reviews provided by the 64 contributors to this volume. Each entry includes a complete discography, and each release is rated on a scale of one to ten. The hip writing is geared toward those in the know, and the authors themselves are knowledgeable. Entries are interspersed with top-ten album lists from various artists and photographs of album covers. An appendix offers a list of the top 100 alternative albums of all time, and a mercifully short essay on the nature of alternative music outlines the principles of the category: "antigenerationally dystopian, subculturally presuming fragmentation ...built on an often neurotic discomfort over massified and commodified culture." Though 99 percent of those who check out this volume won't be able to offer anything close to a dictionary definition of "dystopian," they'll probably think it's a pretty cool book. Recommended for both public and academic libraries. (Index not seen.)?Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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H.L Mencken once said the only group tha doesn't receive ample criticism are the writers that criticize. So excuse me if the writing in this book inspires me to do just that. Spin's writers are more guilty of the cardinal sin for critics than any other mag I am aware of. It seems that producing an alternative publication also includes alternative standards for writing integrety. The cardinal sin for writers is to use your review to exalt youself rather than comment on the subject at hand. Whenever you get that sophomoric attitude where you can feel the writer implying, "I am too cool to like this record", you are reading a bad review(case in point, the entry on the Cranberries). The other case, is to either complement or spurn an artist based on their convictions politically, religeously, philosophically, etc. The writer needs to understand that no one cares what their beliefs are. The reader is already complementing you by expressing their confidence in your knowledge of the artist, and they are interested in you sharing that. Never take that confidence for granted by assuming that we are additionally interested, much less confident, in whether you identify with the artist's beliefs. J.D Considine of Rolling Stone, Musician, Baltimore Sun is often guilty of this as are much of the Spin writing staff. Only Sia Michel and Ann Powers(for the most part, Charles Aaron) show that they understand this. I will say that Ann Power's essay on U2 is one of the best I've ever read. Considering U2's common themes, the band is a landmine for irresponsible writers but the Powers review is inspired and the best example of how to cover the ideals of an artist without interjecting unwanted philosophical commentary.
And as for its faults, aside from differences of opinion on certain reviewed albums, it's difficult for me to accept Spin's championing of the punk movement and underground culture in the book, since it is the same magazine that stated that fanzines are "by losers, for losers." In general, I don't read the magazine because it's more dependent on pop culture trends than music,(the "Rolling Stone of the 90's",) it claims in its press releases. Unfortuantely, it's become popular for other music magazines to follow that premise, as fashion spreads can be found in Alternative Press and URB. I also found Wesibard's introduction to be as vague and confused as the "Alternative" label itself is.
In general, enjoy life more and try to explore some of the obscure artists featured in the book. END