Tuesday, May 19, 2009


There can be many red flags that spring up when you review a book you were interviewed for. There can be even more when you're thanked in the acknowledgments at the end. The deal is, I would have read Greg Kot's new book, Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music, whether I was interviewed for it or not.

When I heard about the idea for the book, I wanted to read it as soon as it was available. I was a big fan of Kot's first book, Wilco: Learning How to Die, so it made sense I wanted to read his follow-up. As somebody who has listened to Sound Opinions (the radio show/podcast Kot co-hosts) for four years, I wanted to read what he had to say on the Internet and its effect on music.

Well, I must say this book is incredibly thorough and understandable. I never thought I was talked down to or talked over my head. Rather than preaching an apocalyptic view that things will never be the same in the era of the iPod, Ripped gives many reasons why there are more options now in the digital era. And that, after hearing enough news stories for the past nine years about how terrible things are in the world of music distribution and performance, is welcome.

If Time Life were to resurrect their History of Rock 'n' Roll series or if VH1 did a Behind the Music episode on the first decade of the new century, I wouldn't be surprised if the topic of burning CD-Rs and ripping MP3s was easily glossed over and tied up in a neat bow. Thankfully, at no point in reading Ripped did I find anything truly simple or black and white. When the fog lifts from a foggy era, many matters are easy to forget once it's passed. So having a book that documents this foggy time is pretty crucial.

Profiling artists as diverse as the Grateful Dead, Wilco, Prince, Death Cab for Cutie, Radiohead, and Girl Talk, and labels like Merge and Saddle Creek, the ones that are in for the long haul get the spotlight. These are people that choose to embrace technology rather than fight technology. The same goes with the music fans, including myself. I experienced the fast absorption of Napster from a music geek thing to a mainstream thing in just a matter of weeks when I was in college. I knew I wasn't the only one, so sharing my experience along with many others was validating.

So yes, you can consider this recommendation a biased one, but I'm not some robot who's unbiased nor am I someone whose meals are funded by promotional dollars. I like reading books about music, bands, the music industry at large, and the many mindsets that operate alongside or in it. Ripped is very much worth your time if you want to understand the context of the past and have an idea about where things are going in the digital era.

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