Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Review: Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge
Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A fantastic history of the Seattle music scene labelled grunge. Yarm's strength is, aside from the wealth of material he culled from his interview subjects, is the fact that he knows the scene. The book begins back in the early 80s and successfully traces the rise of the huge bands as well as the ones (like TAD) that could've made it big but didn't for reasons random, sometimes cruel, sometimes understandable, but ultimately fascinating.
Working with the structure of an oral history still leaves Yarm room to create a narrative. Juxtaposing contradictory perspectives allows for a certain sense of tribulation -- who do we believe if there are only two presentations of an event? Well, Yarm's done us the service of staying out of the way. Put another text might make conclusions based on the comments/quotes, but Yarm emphasizes that the issue here isn't really the factual trajectory of the individuals, but the overall movement. For example, who knows if Courtney Love is telling the truth. Ever. And who knows if anyone talking about Courtney Love is telling the truth or has a grudge. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but ultimately how people talk about the scene tells you more than the facts. Maybe that's not what everyone expects but if you go in looking for a beautiful mix of insider gossip, facts, perceptions, and caricature (not one of those things but all).
A highly satisfying presentation that moves quickly and doesn't seem to lack anything essential (except maybe Chris Cornell's post-Soundgarden decent into drugs and alcohol, though I suspect the blind spot was intentional and not due to a lack of interest or work on Yarm's part).
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