three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
22-May-June-2006
By: 
Jen Trynin
user_rating: 
0

A Rock & Roll Fairy Tale

A-EverythingI’mCrackedUpToBeJen Trynin was this close to being the next big thing. Frustrated in her career as a coffee-house singer-songwriter, she roughed up her image, turned her amps up to 11, and the music world took note. A bidding war ensued, and her first album for Warner Records, Cockamamie, garnered a slew of acclaim. But all the momentum was for naught. Another singer on the same label (Alanis Morissette) hit it big, and the buzz that surrounded Trynin quieted to a hush. In Everything I’m Cracked Up to Be she relives her days on the cusp of fame and gives an insider’s peek into the vapid machinations of the 1990s record industry.
Harcourt. 368 pages. $23. ISBN: 0151011486

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Trynin’s terse, hilarious, you-are-there prose is as strong as her songwriting was, and this will remain an excellent primer for any rockers considering signing with a major label." Chris Willman

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Trynin’s memoir of her meteoric rise and even quicker slide is an edgy, honest, and bittersweet account of what it’s like to be at the center of that storm—to be wined and dined, sliced and diced, so that you no longer recognize what is real or who you are. It’s also a wise and compelling snapshot of a then-still-omnipotent record industry reveling in all its sleazy glory just before corporate consolidation (not to mention the digital revolution) brought it all tumbling down." Erik Himmelsbach

Village Voice 4 of 5 Stars
"Scanning a page before filing it away, I kept going for 15, then went back to the beginning and swallowed the thing lickety-split. … I’ve read enough biz books to be certain this is one of the best. It describes the evil mystery of recoupability more clearly than Steve Albini himself, and makes an ideal companion to Michael Azerrad’s unnecessarily male Our Band Could Be Your Life." Robert Christgau

Onion A.V. Club 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[A] cautionary tale about the havoc even a marginal level of fame can wreak on an otherwise-grounded individual." Nathan Rabin

Boston Phoenix 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Trynin never gets sold on the idea of her own brilliance. She’s too busy watching herself from a distance, searching for images to help her figure out who the hell she is or wants to be." Amy Finch

San Diego Union Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Hers is the story of pure, undiluted junk, the stuff of fantasy: what it’s like to be thought of by the music business as the next big thing. It’s a junkie’s dream. And we all know what happens when a junkie gets the pure stuff." Cindy Lee Berryhill

Critical Summary

It’s been over a decade since Jen Trynin’s first album hit the shelves—and maybe time, as well as getting her story down on paper—has healed some wounds. For all the ups and downs of her flirtation with stardom, she shows neither bitterness nor excessive self-regard. In direct, insightful prose she weaves a tale of manipulation, betrayal, and the power of fame’s allure. Critics are as charmed by her debut book as they were with her first album. Let’s hope, for Trynin’s sake, that acclaim isn’t a bad omen.

Cited by the Critics

Our Band Could Be Your Life Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981–1991 | Michael Azerrad (2001): With profiles of 13 seminal bands, from Black Flag and Minor Threat to Sonic Youth and the Replacements, this is a book for diehard music fans of that era.