Is it sad that the peak moments of my life were playing in a junior-high rock band and covering a song about atheism in front of my Catholic-school classmates? For the select few readers who would resoundingly scream, “NO! MUSIC IS AWESOME!” I have a book you might like/want/and/or/should buy. Jessica Hopper’s “The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic” is a welcome addition to the book pile of any music lover.
Hopper’s prose is full of acerbic charm. Whether she’s writing about a performance by the band Coughs (“it’s like a massive conglomeration of screeching worn-out cab brakes, assembly-line machines, and pneumatic nail guns, the whole thing driven by the maniacally rapid heartbeat of a small mammal”), Taylor Swift’s empiric ambitions with the release of her album “Red,” or the year when Miley Cyrus corralled the media’s attention (and wouldn’t let go), Hopper writes with a potent mix off music-biz-weariness, attentiveness, wonder, or, if it’s merited, ego-melting shade.
In an early article, Hopper deconstructs Lana Del Ray (or, in Hopper’s words, Amy Winehouse “with the safety on”) and identifies why consumers initially had trouble buying the star’s image. There are profiles of Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar, as well whole sections on female artists, bad reviews, nostalgia, and faith-inspired music. There is a funny article about a Pearl Jam anniversary show in Wisconsin and a tiny bit of autobiography about being the young critic's ill-fated decision to wear a Soundgarden t-shirt to a high school party (Side Note: “Loud Love” is a great song).
There's enough cultural criticism in here to teach you something about the music industry and the book’s format also makes it great to dip into. The riffs on Van Morrison are sweet and wistful like the songs themselves. Highly recommend.