May27th

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Nirvana’s mega-bestselling Nevermind was credited with dramatically altering the American pop-musical landscape. Azerrad ably demonstrates that the “new” sound actually sprang from almost 15 years of innovation by hundreds of bands who remained “[b]elow the radar of the corporate behemoths.” Linked under the loose rubric “indie rock,” bands like Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Minor Threat and the Replacements languished in the musical minor leagues because they were too experimental for commercial radio, made unfortunate career decisions or eschewed mainstream success. Yet these bands formed the nucleus of a new youth movement. Youths who defined themselves in opposition to middle-American values found an aesthetic and a community through the music. Given the fervor for indie progeny like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the indie scene’s impact was not insignificant and rock journalist Azerrad (Come as You Are) partly aims to trace that larger cultural legacy. But this thick slice of nostalgia, replete with colorful anecdotes that demystify even deliberately mystifying artists, primarily targets die-hard supporters of seminal 1980s indie bands, underground-club scenesters and 1980s college radio buffs. Though day-in-the-life bios predominate over extensive musical or cultural analysis, this is an astute insider’s account of the collective accomplishment of these various bands: strong musical and political statements by people with little clout and even less financial support that reverberated throughout youth culture. A devotee himself, Azerrad is occasionally belligerent in his support of his subjects’ art and attitudes, but he also deftly captures the thrill of being young, antiestablishment and impassioned the inspiring ingredients of all these bands. Photos. (July 31) Forecast: Indie culture has lost little mystique for insiders or outsiders, and with national TV and radio interviews, this tribute may draw the MTV crowd.

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