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The evil step child of Stranded (Knopf's original book of rock criticism), Kill Your Idols is a collection of 35 essays about allegedly great rock albums that this new generation of critics loathe. The evil step child of Stranded (Knopf's original book of rock criticism), Kill Your Idols is a collection of 35 essays about allegedly great rock albums that this new generation of critics loathe.


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The evil step child of Stranded (Knopf's original book of rock criticism), Kill Your Idols is a collection of 35 essays about allegedly great rock albums that this new generation of critics loathe. The evil step child of Stranded (Knopf's original book of rock criticism), Kill Your Idols is a collection of 35 essays about allegedly great rock albums that this new generation of critics loathe.

53 review for Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics

  1. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    A neat idea with conspicuous flaws: new-school rock critics writing essays about why they don't like a particular record that old-school rock critics have enshrined as "classic." Editor and critic Jim DeRogatis, who was famously fired from "Rolling Stone" for trashing the then-current Hootie and the Blowfish record, acknowledges that the book was conceived as a retort to RS' cash-cow "500 Greatest Albums" issue (and now coffee-table book, etc.)... but it comes off as just that - a retort - inste A neat idea with conspicuous flaws: new-school rock critics writing essays about why they don't like a particular record that old-school rock critics have enshrined as "classic." Editor and critic Jim DeRogatis, who was famously fired from "Rolling Stone" for trashing the then-current Hootie and the Blowfish record, acknowledges that the book was conceived as a retort to RS' cash-cow "500 Greatest Albums" issue (and now coffee-table book, etc.)... but it comes off as just that - a retort - instead of a counterbalance. At least its flaws are consistent across the essays: for example, there's a lot of "this album sucks/this other album does it better" without defending the second half of the argument, which turns what could have been an interesting point/counterpoint concept into a hipster pissing contest. Few of the essays manage to make their points coherently, which I think is kind of ironic since the entire first chunk of the book is devoted to knocking classic-rock concept albums for their incoherence ("Sgt. Pepper," "Tommy," et al). Along the same lines, for as much time as the contributors spend criticizing old-school rock critics for linking albums' greatness to positive memories of their youth, many of them commit the same sin in reverse, writing at sometimes mind-numbing length about their traumatic memories associated with those records. In general there's way too much personal mythology and not enough objective analysis, especially for a book that purports to be a debunker. So rather than reasoned critiques, a lot of this comes off as alternately childish, reactionary, contrary for its own sake, or ostentatiously hipper-than-thou - sometimes all four at once. (And then there's the puzzling, banal, and frankly embarrassing essay by co-editor - and DeRogatis' wife - Carmel Carrillo, about songs that remind her of her failed relationships. It's not even a particularly well-written example of the mixtape-memory genre, and it doesn't belong here in any event.) Highlights: a short story that envisions assassinating Fleetwood Mac as penance for "Rumours"; an Alabama native's take on the first Lynyrd Skynyrd record (the essay that best does what it was supposed to do); the review of the Dead Kennedys' "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables" that begins by asking the reader whether s/he hasn't ever wanted to beat the shit out of Jello Biafra. (Great throwaway line: Jello "sounds like he's giving head to a kazoo.") Lowlight: a staggeringly ignorant review of Public Enemy's "It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" that knocks them for not being the Coasters (!) and seems to accuse gangsta rappers of complicity in the quasi-lynching of James Byrd. Biggest regret: This could have made a hell of a magazine piece, since each essay contains at least the seed of a great, valid point, however sloppily made. But what magazine would run it? As it is, it comes off as a dress rehearsal for something like Vanity Fair's "Rock Snob Dictionary," a none-too-subtle attempt to create an alternate top-whatever list without actually doing it. Crowning irony: the contributor bios at the end list each critic's top ten albums, and - surprise! - there's a lot of overlap between the albums that appear there and the albums trashed in the book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ted Burke

    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's 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 disassemblin 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's 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 view point 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 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 back yard 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,nit picky 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 collection of useless nastiness, a knee jerk contrarianism of the sort that one over hears 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Pretty great concept, a host of rock critics each take a stab at convincing you why some of the most widely heralded "great" rock albums actually suck. It was fun reading the trashing of shitty "important" classic rock bands I've always hated, like Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin, but if you dis Smashing Pumpkins you can just shut the fuck up. Pretty great concept, a host of rock critics each take a stab at convincing you why some of the most widely heralded "great" rock albums actually suck. It was fun reading the trashing of shitty "important" classic rock bands I've always hated, like Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin, but if you dis Smashing Pumpkins you can just shut the fuck up.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    Brilliant idea! Some of my own sacred cows were slaughtered here and I enjoyed it none the less. Skip the Jim Walsh chapter unless you want to know how awesome Mr. Walsh envisions himself.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    For rock fans, especially anyone overdosed on “classic rock radio” or just sick of hearing about the monument/milestone/megacanonical status of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” or “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Not that there’s anything wrong with them….just that it’s hard to disagree with the crotchety, disgruntled critics in “Kill Your Idols” that Rolling Stone Mag and VH1 and all the other “Top 100 Albums of All Time” nazis should just shut the f*#%k up about how transcendent these LPs a For rock fans, especially anyone overdosed on “classic rock radio” or just sick of hearing about the monument/milestone/megacanonical status of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” or “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Not that there’s anything wrong with them….just that it’s hard to disagree with the crotchety, disgruntled critics in “Kill Your Idols” that Rolling Stone Mag and VH1 and all the other “Top 100 Albums of All Time” nazis should just shut the f*#%k up about how transcendent these LPs are. I mean, does anyone understand the lyrics of “Tommy” or really want to take the Eagles’ “Desperado” with them to a desert island? Does anyone really think there was anything original or profound about "Never Mind the Bollocks...Here's the Sex Pistols"? Are you with me, temperamentally, so far? OK, you might enjoy this collection of short rants against 34 of the supposedly greatest rock albums in history. It’s uneven—when the criticism is most effective, it mocks the mainstream critics and the artists for taking themselves way too seriously; when it is least convincing, it obsesses about stuff like incomprehensible or pompous lyrics (do we really expect poetry?) or music that’s more complex than the three-chord three-minute thrashes that some of the “iconoclastic” critics think are “pure” rock. But there’s lots of hilarious, irritating, and weird stuff in this book (like one guy who still blames Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” for his embarrassing over-excitement at a high school dance with a too-touchyfeely girl…you can imagine the details if you like). How about one jaded critic who, instead of bothering to do a track-by-track debunking of the album (Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors”), creates a fantasy of smuggling a sniper’s rifle into a reunion concert and shooting the entire band on stage. I can sympathize (especially now in an election year when we're bound to hear "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" yet again in someone's campaign...).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    having read so much rock journalism in the past praising many of the albums dissected in this book, it was nice to read critics presenting the opposing viewpoint, especially when confirming my opinions on albums sold to the masses as classics, such as radiohead's "ok computer" (i think "the bends" is radiohead's best album and david menconi agrees) and the sex pistols' "never mind the bollocks ...here's the sex pistols" (while it was undeniably influential to the punk scene, musically it's nothi having read so much rock journalism in the past praising many of the albums dissected in this book, it was nice to read critics presenting the opposing viewpoint, especially when confirming my opinions on albums sold to the masses as classics, such as radiohead's "ok computer" (i think "the bends" is radiohead's best album and david menconi agrees) and the sex pistols' "never mind the bollocks ...here's the sex pistols" (while it was undeniably influential to the punk scene, musically it's nothing special, a sentiment echoed by jim testa). i wanted to give this four stars, but two things stopped me. the first was jim walsh's chapter on fleetwood mac's "rumours". walsh devotes the equivalent of one paragraph in seven pages laying out his reasons for disliking the album while spending the rest of the time devoted to a fantasy better suited for fiction. and the second is the utter waste of 16 pages given to coeditor carmel carrillo's "my greatest exes". it doesn't deconstruct a classic. it's basically a poor ripoff of "high fidelity", interspersing songs she associates with exes, many by classic artists but only maybe three or four that are really considered classic songs. the music was basically used as a structure to talk about her own life, with randomly-appearing song lyrics often being the only reminder that it's in a book about rock criticism. it doesn't fit in with the rest of the essays and would be better suited to a personal essay collection. if she hadn't been a coeditor, i doubt this would have even made it in the book at all because it was so wildly off-topic. so in conclusion, skip jim walsh and carmel carrillo's chapters and you'll enjoy this book a lot more.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    I guess by "reconsider" they mean "make unsupported and snarky comments". Many of the reviews in this book seem to have been clearly written with the editorial agenda in mind first and a real look at the musical and cultural impact of the album in question a distant second. There are some fair points made but they are overwhelmed by the obvious intent of the review and ongoing artist and industry bashing. So you don't like Rolling Stone, I get it! Using a good review by Rolling Stone as a reason I guess by "reconsider" they mean "make unsupported and snarky comments". Many of the reviews in this book seem to have been clearly written with the editorial agenda in mind first and a real look at the musical and cultural impact of the album in question a distant second. There are some fair points made but they are overwhelmed by the obvious intent of the review and ongoing artist and industry bashing. So you don't like Rolling Stone, I get it! Using a good review by Rolling Stone as a reason that an album must have been bad is specious at best. And I don't like Rolling Stone either! Perhaps the most amusing aspect of the book is that the contributors list their top ten favorite albums and almost invariably there are albums on those list that had just been ripped to shreds in the body of the book. Exile on Main Street and Blood on the Tracks, two of the albums ripped the hardest actually appear on a third of the lists!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Good gimmick - younger critics throw stones at classic rock's holy grail albums. Most of the reviews reach a little too hard and leave the reader unconvinced as to the album's overrated-ness, although a few of them are well-thought-out and solidly presented. One or two dispense with the traditional criticism altogether and just use the album as a springboard for a rant against the band - most effectively in the piece which outlines the writer's fantasy about sniping each member of Fleetwood Mac Good gimmick - younger critics throw stones at classic rock's holy grail albums. Most of the reviews reach a little too hard and leave the reader unconvinced as to the album's overrated-ness, although a few of them are well-thought-out and solidly presented. One or two dispense with the traditional criticism altogether and just use the album as a springboard for a rant against the band - most effectively in the piece which outlines the writer's fantasy about sniping each member of Fleetwood Mac during a performance. The nice thing about this book is that if you find one review boring, you can just move on to the next one. Worth a look if you need something to read in small chunks of time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Todd

    Before Reading: A book of snarky essays about why the writers hate something much beloved? Yes, Please! After: These guys are way too concerned with being taken seriously. I expected a bit more tongue in cheek or humor in the essays. There are a few moments of wit. One essay is a fictional account of an assassination of one of the bands. Not something I'll ever read again and quite frankly a little sad that I read it this time. Before Reading: A book of snarky essays about why the writers hate something much beloved? Yes, Please! After: These guys are way too concerned with being taken seriously. I expected a bit more tongue in cheek or humor in the essays. There are a few moments of wit. One essay is a fictional account of an assassination of one of the bands. Not something I'll ever read again and quite frankly a little sad that I read it this time.

  10. 5 out of 5

    RandomAnthony

    Kind of uneven but still interesting. I loved the chapter criticizing The Doors. You'll either enjoy the slamming of the musical icons and/or wonder why he chose to slam your favorite on the list. Some of the writing is a bit smug, but I'd expect that from rock journalists, to be fair. They're not exactly an evolved species. Kind of uneven but still interesting. I loved the chapter criticizing The Doors. You'll either enjoy the slamming of the musical icons and/or wonder why he chose to slam your favorite on the list. Some of the writing is a bit smug, but I'd expect that from rock journalists, to be fair. They're not exactly an evolved species.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matt Schario

    Collection of essays by rock writers commissioned to tear down albums that belong in the Holy Canon of great rock music. Artists receiving the smack-down range from Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to Wilco and Public Enemy. If you love rock music, and like to argue about it, then this is the book for you.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Jones-Goldstein

    Hit and Miss collection of album and band reviews done to re-examine 'The classics'. This is the perfect book for the kind of folks who are willing to listen to all of 'Metal Machine Music' but will trip all over themselves to change the station as fast as possible if 'Brass in Pocket' comes on. Lots of bitter fun. Hit and Miss collection of album and band reviews done to re-examine 'The classics'. This is the perfect book for the kind of folks who are willing to listen to all of 'Metal Machine Music' but will trip all over themselves to change the station as fast as possible if 'Brass in Pocket' comes on. Lots of bitter fun.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stanton

    A good read even when I disagreed with the authors at times. Rock music criticism has been in the grips of boomers for too long and it was refreshing to witness the slaughtering of so many sacred cows.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Wells

    Funny book. Rock writers write about why classic albums from the Eagles and Beach Boys and the Sex Pistols suck . Lots of inside dirt on bands from the weirdos obsessed with bands. A light fun book I can't put down. Funny book. Rock writers write about why classic albums from the Eagles and Beach Boys and the Sex Pistols suck . Lots of inside dirt on bands from the weirdos obsessed with bands. A light fun book I can't put down.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Thiessen

    Other than the lame Fleetwood Mac copout, this represents some of the best contemporary rock n' roll counterculture journalism I've seen. Other than the lame Fleetwood Mac copout, this represents some of the best contemporary rock n' roll counterculture journalism I've seen.

  16. 5 out of 5

    William Marshall

    Hated this book he slams some of the best classic rock albums of all time This book blows Wonder what his idea of great music is to trash Sgt Pepper "Really" Hated this book he slams some of the best classic rock albums of all time This book blows Wonder what his idea of great music is to trash Sgt Pepper "Really"

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Overall, good, but it'll vary. I love reading someone make fun of the Eagles or Smashing Pumpkins, of course. But some of these were rather weak. Definitely thumb through it before buying. Overall, good, but it'll vary. I love reading someone make fun of the Eagles or Smashing Pumpkins, of course. But some of these were rather weak. Definitely thumb through it before buying.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kiof

    Good idea, (mostly) bad execution.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    I love looking at albums in a new light, and it was refreshing to read these new-ass-tearing criticisms, even of albums I dearly love. Loses one star for being the idea of Jim DeRogatis.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Clint Davis

    As others have said, the idea for this project was decent but its execution was bungled. What should've been a collection of thoughtfully written, objective arguments for why certain "classic" albums don't earn that title ends up coming off as a bunch of contrarian personal essays about traumatic adolescent experiences with said albums, with only the occasional piece that could be considered a serious piece of criticism. I'll single out the essays about "Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd" (easily the As others have said, the idea for this project was decent but its execution was bungled. What should've been a collection of thoughtfully written, objective arguments for why certain "classic" albums don't earn that title ends up coming off as a bunch of contrarian personal essays about traumatic adolescent experiences with said albums, with only the occasional piece that could be considered a serious piece of criticism. I'll single out the essays about "Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd" (easily the high point of the book) and the opening one about "Sgt. Peppers" as the best of the bunch. These are really the only ones that made me rethink my own positions by using great evidence and deep analysis. Many of the essays in here just sound like they were written by the most obnoxious caricatures of music critics: self-important windbags who are more worried about name-dropping other artists than breaking down the one they were tasked to cover. I would like to see a less vindictive group of writers do this exact project, but maybe the best criticism of old records is to simply let them fade out of our minds instead of turning the spotlight up even brighter.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rich E. Vander Klok

    I liked reading these alternate takes on albums many critics praise, but the anti-Rolling Stone griping got old quickly. Also, a lot of the anti-60s and 70s "you had to be there" was replaced with newer "you had to be there." Overall, it's an interesting time capsule of criticism. I liked reading these alternate takes on albums many critics praise, but the anti-Rolling Stone griping got old quickly. Also, a lot of the anti-60s and 70s "you had to be there" was replaced with newer "you had to be there." Overall, it's an interesting time capsule of criticism.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Termite Tanthony

    It's supposed to be contrarian, that's the point. It's supposed to be contrarian, that's the point.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Janssen McCormick

    Surprisingly uneven, though no issues with the records being skewered there's definitely some questionable writing amidst the decent essays. Surprisingly uneven, though no issues with the records being skewered there's definitely some questionable writing amidst the decent essays.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris LaMay-West

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kenyatta Jean-Paul Garcia

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brad

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bill Ellingboe

  30. 4 out of 5

    Casey

  31. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  32. 5 out of 5

    Keith zak

  33. 5 out of 5

    Kester

  34. 4 out of 5

    Jack

  35. 4 out of 5

    Lori

  36. 5 out of 5

    Carly

  37. 4 out of 5

    Alaska Whelan

  38. 4 out of 5

    Lumonash

  39. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  40. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  41. 4 out of 5

    Vittorio

  42. 5 out of 5

    Leah

  43. 5 out of 5

    Summer

  44. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  45. 5 out of 5

    Ben Bennington

  46. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  47. 4 out of 5

    Chrissy

  48. 4 out of 5

    Shawna

  49. 4 out of 5

    Puhnner

  50. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  51. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  52. 5 out of 5

    Mer

  53. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

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