Saturday, December 18, 2010

Under the Radar 2010 - Girl Power: the 90s revolution in music by Marisa Meltzer

Several of us who blog here at the Reader would describe ourselves as music fans, and clicking back through the entries of this blog it's not uncommon to find posts that combine this love of music with a love of reading. In the past year Rosemary shared some recent music biographies in a post called Musical Memories, and also looked at links between novels and songs in a post called Songs and Literature. David also picked up the music thread back in the spring, with a look at some rock biographies for quick reading.

I also enjoy a good book about music, and when I looked back at my 2010 reading, there was a music title in particular that stood out for me -- Girl Power: the 90s revolution in music by Marisa Meltzer. Mixing both feminism and rock history, the book is an enthusiastic survey of the music scene in the 1990s, a time that saw pretty big changes in how women were perceived in the music industry. You've likely heard terms like riot grrrl, girl power but perhaps don't know the music that was originally associated with them.

Meltzer walks you through the trends, the politics and the music. The book travels through a range of artists from Bikini Kill to Indigo Girls, Spice Girls to Sleater Kinney, and while Meltzer does seem to favour the more DIY rock aesthetic of the early 90s, she also looks at the more commercial endeavors that invariably grow out of indie beginnings. Meltzer takes a light, personal tone to give both the historical context but also a great sense of the spirit of the times she describes. For me the book was enjoyable on a number of levels: there were bands and artists here I already knew but also ones I was happy to discover, and others who maybe I'd previously been unenthusiastic about that I'm now seeing in a different light.

If you're interested in pop culture, rock music history or modern feminist theory you might enjoy this book too.

Looking for more reading ideas?

Pop culture enthusiasts might be interested in another book co-authored by Meltzer: How Sassy changed my life : a love letter to the greatest teen magazine of all time by Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer.

For an earlier era of underground music: Our Band Could Be Your Life : scenes from the American rock underground 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad.

If Canadian rock is more your interest: Have Not Been the Same : the CanRock renaissance, 1985-95 by Michael Barclay Jason Schneider and Andrew Jack

For more on Riot Grrls try Girls to the Front: the true story of the Riot Grrrl revolution by Sara Marcus.

For fictional accounts of the rock life either commercial or indie: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan or The Angel Riots by Ibi Kaslik

For a few recent biographies of female musicians: Rat girl by Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses) or Just Kids by Patti Smith,

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