The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic

A copy of the book "The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic"

I love reading books about music because I can put my headphones in, call up Spotify, and get a soundtrack. I can hear what the writer is talking about. You get one level from listening to the music itself, you get another from reading about it, but the two together? It’s like combining peanut butter and chocolate: a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

In The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, Jessica Hopper has largely chosen essays about bands with women in them, or are about women in the music industry. (I did not listen to R Kelley during her essay on the sexual abuse allegations against him.) And so my Spotify recommendations and “on repeat” list is now full of female artists I either didn’t know before (see: Cat Power) or hadn’t listened to in years (see: early Fiona Apple and late Sleater-Kinney).

But it’s more than just the music. She writes beautifully and evocatively. The oral history of Rolling Stone, “It was us against those guys”, is a great history of the women who made Rolling Stone into a professional organization and the shit they had to put up with along the way. Those women are still helping each other in their careers today – because to make it as a woman in the music industry is hard and soul-killing and if you don’t help each other, you’re all fucked.

Yes, read The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, read about the Chicago punk scene of the early 2000’s, learn more about your favorite female musicians, learn about female musicians you’ve never heard about before, learn about how having to put up with sexist shit day in and day out kills your soul (if that’s an experience you haven’t already had to put up with). It’s worth it.

Grunge was the punk of its day

Champange Supernovas

I enjoyed Champagne Supernovas more than I expected to, quite frankly.

The subtitle sums it up: it is about Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, and Alexander McQueen through the 1990s (and a bit into the early 2000s). I wish there had been more photos of the fashion, but given how easy it is to search for the collections online, that’s a minor quibble.

You think of grunge when you think of 90s fashion, but that was really only a couple of years. The rest of the decade was still about stripping away the clothing armor of the 1980s, but it was a more put-together look. Marc Jacobs had the famous (infamous?) grunge collection that got him fired. Alexander McQueen was making art, not clothes a person would (or could) wear. And you can’t talk about fashion in the 1990s without Kate Moss.

It’s a great overview of the aesthetics of the decade and the clothes that went with it.