The Current's Rock and Roll Book Club: Steven Hyden's 'Your Favorite Band is Killing Me'

Jill Riley and Brian Oake read together
Jill Riley and Brian Oake read 'Your Favorite Band is Killing Me' (Jay Gabler/MPR)
Steven Hyden interview
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Music critic Steven Hyden is launching his new book, Your Favorite Band is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life. In the book, Hyden discusses different types of music rivalries and relates them to issues such as generational gaps and cultural differences. He also writes about why these types of arguments can be so engaging for music lovers, as well as what these rivalries say about us.

Hyden will be reading from the book tonight at 7 p.m. at Magers and Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis. Hyden dropped by The Current for an interview with Brian Oake and Jill Riley to discuss the book.

Oake: You know if we've learned one thing from counting down the 893 essential albums on The Current, as determined by the listeners, different people like different things — and one of the most entertaining things to do when you're a deep music fan is to argue about music. Not to come to blows, but to endlessly debate the ups, the downs, the pluses, the minuses, this artist versus that artist versus this band versus that heritage and it never ever really ends. That is, possibly, until now. We're joined in the studio by an author who has written for the A.V. Club, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Slate, and Salon and tonight at Magers and Quinn in Uptown he is going to be launching his brand-new book, Your Favorite Band is Killing Me. Steve, what is the basic premise behind "Your Favorite Band is Killing Me?"

Hyden: Well, the idea is that when people care really passionately about a music rivalry, whether it's the Beatles versus the Stones or Biggie versus Tupac or Oasis versus Blur — which was the big one for me when I was a teenager — that it's not only a musical debate, but a lot of times it ends up being this metaphor for different, opposing ideas. Especially if you're a huge music fan, your music taste ends up being an extension of yourself — it's almost like an expression of a certain philosophy — so I just think that's a really interesting phenomenon and I was interested in exploring that.

Riley: So when it comes to rock-and-roll rivalries or pop music rivalries, what does it really say about us? I mean, let's say I'm a Beatles person and Brian is a Stones person — can we coexist? Is it okay to be both? What is that saying?

Oake: And that's hypothetical, by the way, because we're both Beatles people so I know we can coexist.

Riley: Yeah, and I love the Rolling Stones too.

Oake: So do I, but if you had to chose one.

Riley: But that's like one of the classic arguments.

Oake: It is, absolutely it is.

Hyden: If there is an arc to my book, it's about starting at a place where you're young and a teenager and trying to figure out your identity and how you use music to figure that out. I think when you're younger, you're more likely to be drawn to these dichotomies and to draw a line in the sand and to pick one side versus the other. So that's where the book starts. Like I said before, I was a huge Oasis fan in high school, so I hated Blur. To me, Oasis was like this blue-collar rock-and-roll band and Blur was this sort of hoity-toity, artsy-fartsy type group, so that was the dichotomy in my mind. As you get older and you experience more of the world, you hopefully you get wiser. I think you reach a point where you're less about drawing lines in the sand and you want to find connections for people. This book talks about the rivalries, but there's a lot of other topics that it touches on. I talk about politics, and sociocultural type things because obviously, you know, if you look at our culture right now, people use politics to divide. They use all sorts of things to divide us, and I think ultimately that we are more in common than we are different. As a guy who's a couple of years from 40, that's something I'm more interested in. The book traces that arc and that evolution.

Riley: You have a lot of the classic rivalries going on in this book, divided by different chapters, but you also touch on some generational rivalry. A perfect example: Sinead O'Connor vs. Miley Cyrus.

Hyden: Yeah. If you want to quibble, you could say that that's not really a rivalry, more a beef. For people who don't remember, it was at the 2013 Video Music Awards: Miley Cyrus caused a big stir with her performance and Sinead O'Connor wrote her an open letter, criticizing her for doing this. It was also sort of offering sort of motherly advice to her — to look out and not to exploit herself. Then Miley Cyrus called Sinead O'Connor crazy, and it just went downhill from there. I just thought that was a really great example of the eternal conflict between young and old. When you get older, you inevitably get annoyed with younger people because you look at their values and they're going to be different from maybe your generational values and you're like "you're wrong, you should be like us, you should like our records, you should like our T.V. shows, we don't understand what you're doing." Youth always wins that argument, just because old people eventually die off and they fade away and then young people take over.

Oake: That's a hell of an uplifting picture that you're painting right now, Steve.

Hyden: Well you know, in the history of young and old — the generation divide — young people always win. It's just interesting for me because I used to relate more to the younger people and now I'm starting to see the other side of it. That's a path that all of us take, and I just thought that was a really interesting journey to write about.

Oake: Well, whether we're talking about young and old and generational or simply different attitudes or who got there first, people love to endlessly argue about music.

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