A history of punk, emo and hardcore's growing pains during the commercial boom of the early 1990s and mid-aughts, following 11 bands—including Green Day, Jimmy Eat World, The Donnas and Jawbreaker—as they "sell out" and find mainstream success or break beneath the pressure.
Ozzi is the perfect choice to tackle the challenge of making a cohesive narrative out of a story that travels from mosh pits to executive boardroom meetings to sweaty tour bus spats without ever losing its rhythm ... Part of what makes Sellout sing is its ability to return us to a time in the music industry that now feels like a relic of the past: an era when devoted followings were built from memorable, constant live performances and the unsolicited mailing of demo tapes to labels ... Offering a nimble balance of history, analysis and colorful anecdotes, Sellout ultimately finds its greatest strength in its objectivity. Far from being a castigation of the featured bands, Ozzi’s book is instead a refreshingly dispassionate attempt to explain why some bands were able to find immense success from partnering with a major label while others disintegrated as a result of making the same decision.
Ozzi’s reporting is strong, balanced and well told. There are no (well, very few) clear-cut good guys and bad guys. If the band-by-band structure sometimes limits the ability to look at the bigger picture, it still represents a worthy successor to its obvious inspiration, Michael Azerrad’s 2001 examination of the ’80s indie underground, Our Band Could Be Your Life. The additional challenges facing the Donnas and the Distillers, bands made up of or fronted by women, remain bracing, and the inherent difficulties of maintaining a group’s focus as its circumstances change are timeless.
... those looking for inside baseball on punk, emo, and hardcore’s most (in)famous acts will find plenty to dive into within Sellout ... Throughout the book, Ozzi’s prose is lucid, engaging, and largely objective ... However, where Ozzi’s true strength as a writer and storyteller comes through is in the meticulous construction of chapters, and how these seemingly personal stories gradually lock together to form the backbone of the book’s larger subcultural chronology ... Sellout’s biggest strength is that doesn’t seek to cast judgment on acts for their decision to jump in with the majors ... As Ozzi’s brilliant epilogue serves to illustrate, this period was one of rapid upheaval for the music business ... To have the opportunity to play their music, release records, and bring punk to the masses—with or without major-label support—was always going to be a labor of love, requiring skill, dedication, and unwavering passion. And fittingly, the same could be said for Sellout.