The modern age is horrible. That’s a given. But there are some positive aspects to it.
Take being in a band for instance. You can now do it all for “nothing” and on your own terms. You can make believe and day dream and it’s all that little bit more “real”. Part of being in our band is trying to have all the good bits without any of the bits we don’t want. We can write as many songs as we want, record as many albums as we want, draw as many covers as we want, shoot our own videos, release stuff on our record label. We can play one show a year and pretend it’s Wembley.
To quote Robert Pollard (as is obligatory), what we do is
“count the days that we have wasted from the start speak the words and build a playground in [y]our head[s].”
We know we’ll never play Top of the Pops, we know our greatest success is probably behind us (thanks Gideon Coe), we know we’ll never actually be a successful band but we can pretend and we can dream.
So in that spirit we present what is perhaps the world’s first fan-fiction for an album, the one and only SOAP. Yes, it’s slash-fic for the 33 1/3 series, the Continuum series where a writer chooses a “classic” album and writes about it in depth. There’s been about 80 of these bad boys.
Max knew no one would write one about us so, in carrying on in our delusion, we prefer the term “building a playground in our heads”, he wrote one himself as a Christmas present to us all. Enjoy.
“Here’s my favourite comic; Ariel Shragg’s Potential”
Leeds’ Legends The Seven Inches like to sing. Whilst I do greatly enjoy Ariel Shragg’s Potential, today I would like to talk about one of my favourite comix, John Porcellino’s Perfect Example.
Named after a Husker Du song, this is an autobiographical tale of the months before John P. finally decides to go to University, with all the aimlessness, girls and confusion that entails. It also has the added benefit of undiagnosed clinical depression. I think this perfectly encapsualtes the time for me, and is perhaps the one book I’ve most been able to empaphise/relate with/to . Even the author is referred to as John P. throughout…
It’s drawn in a very simple pared down style, which allows the story telling and emotion to shine through…. Actually if you want a proper review google the book, you’ll get a better idea from that than from me. I suppose I really wanted to use this as a springboard to talk about my own experiences. So the rest of this “review” is “Perfect Example is awesome and here’s what John Perry did when he was 18.”
So I was 18 ten years ago and remember, much like John P., being desperate to get out of my home town. From the start of my final year of school I think that’s what kept me going. He thinks, “I bet everyone in college listens to Husker Du” and that wasn’t far off for me. I didn’t know what to expect but assumed that everyone there would love Captain Beefheart and Neutral Milk Hotel. Obviously that wasn’t the case. It was mainly discovering the joys of laundrettes and listening to people talk about football – it being the year of Arsenal’s Invincibles. Actually I did have a housemate who was exactly like I expected but that’s another story…
Observe the following:
That was pretty much it for me. Except I didn’t realise this wasn’t normal. I remember when a mental health charity came to school in 6th form to talk about depression. They gave you a checklist to see if you had it. Things like “I think everything is pointless” or “I feel sad most of the time”. I laughed at it and commented to my friend “that’s what being a teenager is” and assumed that was just how everyone felt and these people were clowns. You can lead a horse to water…
As I turned 18 I became more withdrawn and yes, had increasingly growing crush on a girl. John P. also had this even having the guts to ask her out (I never did) but she starts going out with his friend, leading to some horrible “gooseberry” moments with the three of them. He starts seeing another girl and doesn’t know how to feel any more. I suppose I did start going out with the girl I liked in school. But, I will quote John P. again,
“I guess I should feel really happy… I’ve wanted a girlfriend for so long. But now it’s right there in front of me… It’s like I won’t let myself be happy…”
I may be making the book sound depressing and a downer throughout. honestly, it isn’t. I started writing this before re-reading and I’m still shocked by how effortlessly excellent the comic is.He does this all with such an incredible lightness of touch and with such a simple style that his description of depression don’t seem depressing. I can only admire his honesty and lack of pretension.
For example here is an example of the text for one page:
Nothing ever comes out the way I’d hoped
Everything turns out wrong
Even happy things are somehow sad…
It’s like there’s nothing at all to depend on…
Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m alive”
I don’t know how other people would react to that but for me it sums up how I felt at 18 perfectly and married to the pictures takes on and becomes somehow beautiful. Maybe it’s just my relation to it that makes me enjoy it so much.
This is one of the covers of “Soap” our second album that I made from a scene in Perfect Example. John P. is hanging out with a group of friends and they all start drinking and having a good time. He doesn’t want to be there and isn’t drinking. Good times. Again, I would’ve been the drunkest there but apart from that…
I think there’s a real poignancy to the work without any rose tint. He’s writing all in the present tense. He does tlak about things he enjoys;seeing friends who think everything else is ridiculous too (mine would Adam John Miller), hearing stories about Depression era America, the beauty of nature and stupid road trips. He enjoys them all but there is just an underlying sadness.
At one point at a party John P. asks;
“I wonder if life will always feel this strange?”
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece on how every artist puts out work that isn’t “good-or-better” at some point during their life. Originally I was going to do a list of people who bucked the trend. Haruki Murakami was one of them. Alas no longer.
At this moment I can empathise with The AV Club when they published this http://www.avclub.com/articles/why-we-wont-be-reviewing-the-quitter,16591/ on Harvey Pekar, explaining why they couldn’t do an official review of Harvey Pekar’s The Quitter. They loved Pekar and really, really didn’t want to put the knife in, but this work wasn’t up to scratch.
(As an aside I also love Pekar and understand their position. He ‘s one of the finest-writers-to-have-ever-lived but definitely a cult proposition and wasn’t a rich man. To give him a kicking just wouldn’t have been right. Fortunately he got back on track after a couple of years of post-main-job-retirement mediocrity.)
So here I am, similarly, going to say Murakami’s latest, IQ84, just isn’t up to scratch. I wish it was. And I’m going to say yes, I did enjoy it, and yes I did read all 1000+ pages of it, so it can’t be all that bad, right? well…
To start again, let me mention the AV Club again , and also the word “again” again. I was 3/4 of the way through IQ84 when I read this article http://www.avclub.com/articles/haruki-murakami-1q84,64876/ . And I found myself agreeing with it a lot – at one point I considered doing a “review” of the review but decided that would be too “meta” and, well, wanky even for me.
What I will say, after reading a few other reviews of IQ84 and interviews with Murakami, I was so pleased to see that one finally pointed out the clunkiness and, to be honest, downright shoddiness of lines such as “when it comes to being gay, I’m in the big leagues.” What the AV Club’s article fails to point out that the blame may not lie in Murakami himself but in a time-pressured translator – tIQ84 was translated by two people in order to cut down the time taken in translation.
The Av Club does point out nicely that a lot of what Murakami does in this book he’s done before and better. You can see elements of The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka On The Shore in here, for sure. In fact it got to the point where I began to think of it as Murakami by numbers. Choose 4 or 5 elements – little people, an assassin, domestic violence and cults- and write a Murakami novel around it. The other elements fill themselves in: a couple kept apart, a everyman writer-protagonist, lots of meals, a sense of inevitability, half explained supernatural events, some classical music and some pop music. Yup, they’re all here.
Although Janacek’s Sinfonietta is pretty awesome.
IQ84 compelling enough but there is soooo much repetition. Every couple of pages someone makes a “simple meal” . Events and phrases are repeated ad adsurdum. I assume this is a stylistic choice but does not make for an interesting read over hundreds of pages. Then there’s the issue of the length. I genuinely believe that Murakami let this book take him where it will take him. Unfortunately this means there’s half as many ideas as in other books he’s written and twice as many loose ends picked up and never explained. He’s done this before, notably in his masterpiece The Wind Up Bird Chronicles. But the important difference there was it felt as if everything was intentionally up in the air, mysterious and confusing. For all the supernatural thingys in IQ84, there is no real sense of mystery in IQ84 here, just another world with different rules, as mundane as our own.
From an early interview about the book it just feels like there are so many missed opportunites. Murakami spoke of writing about Manichea, Japanese occupied China circa 1930s, an interesting subject but one that is skimmed over here. He writes about cults but from such a distance as to shed no light on the subject. He said he was going to be writing about little people. I had visions of an extended version of his “The Elephant Vanishes” – one of the finest short stories ever written (IMHO) – but nothing of the sort.
But as I said before I read, almost devoured this book. Why? Well, I think no matter what he’s writing about Murakami is readable, very readable. I just miss the early days when he was special too.
As an exercise once a year Georges Perec described the houses on the street he lived on as a child. He did this to compare how his memories and his expressions of them would change over the years, when he was in different places and at different ages.
This put me in mind of Bob Dylan in this collection of interviews spanning the years; from 1962, when he was 20 years old, to 2004 when he was 63. He’s consistently asked similar questions, such as what his influences were, how he feels about his songs and, from the late 60s onwards, he’s often asked about being seen as “the voice of generation”. And obviously this changes as time goes on, a common thread running through his answers but different none the less.
Anyway, I wondered when I picked this book up in a second hand book shop in the Lake District on a particularly rainy Sunday, whether I would ever read it, let alone enjoy it. As any budding young muso has I’ve had my own “Dylan phase” but that was years ago, plus a book of interviews from a man who is a famously acerbic interviewee, wanting to reveal nothing, often offended by questions – that’s going to be pretty tedious, right?
Well, not for (supernerd) me it turns out. Firstly, I think (and so does the book, in case you’re worrying I’ll ever have an original opinion) Dylan’s reputation as being terrible to interview stems a lot from “Don’t Look Back”, when he is both a) being pissed off by facile questions about being a protest singer and b) being a 24 year old dick. But, as seen through these selected interviews, he can be funny and illuminating but, importantly, only on subjects he wishes to be. I think he sensibly does not see interviews as any kind of therapy, instead only revealing what he wishes to reveal. This is not to say he hates the interview process, obviously treating it as some type of game during the period covered here.
After a while I stopped thinking of this book as a collection of interviews, and more of a biography written in the eye of the storm, by a multitude of people, pin-pointing Dylan at various points in his life without the benefit of hindsight – instead concentrating on the present at all points. It’s obviously not a diary, or a ‘tell-all’ – for example Dylan keeping variously a marriage, family and heroin habit secret during the time covered – and it’s not unbiased – some of the articles verge on sycophantic, talking about pieces of work that could be charitably called “not his best” – but it is a great snapshot of how the outside world viewed Dylan as he lived his life.
In terms of subjects covered I found a few things fascinating. Obviously in the 60s there was a lot of talk of why he didn’t align himself more with political movements and why he didn’t sing protest songs anymore. Thinking about this after a while for me it became a case of “well, why should he?” I don’t spend my whole life protesting, no matter how shitty the world is… but listening back to his first few albums you can see where these interviewers were coming from, full of incendiary protest songs as they are. Also, in a typically contrary measure, when people shut up about him protesting he wrote a few protest songs and started getting involved in Farm Aid.
I loved the way he talks about his songs. It’s heart warming to see he never rejects his material, beloved by so many, as he changes styles (as might be expected) and as he gets older he talks of his awe at how he used to write. He does, however, refuse to be drawn into specifics about his songs instead talking more of a mood that may have inspired them or that he just channelled them from somewhere else, which to me makes sense: why kill the mystery of a song by going into specifics? Besides, he may not even know himself.
Another thing I enjoyed was the generosity and insight with which Dylan talked about other writers. He thinks Ray Davies is really great and wonders why people don’t ask him about Ray more. On Paul Simon he quite rightly points out that Simon has written some amazing songs and some bad ones too, “but hasn’t everyone?”
Some tidbits: Dylan thinks all of his albums sound pretty crappy; Dylan can spout gibberish with the best of them; when he started out he was asked why his “fans were all between 18 and 25”.
I also got to thinking if there was any body else I’d be interested in seeing given this type of treatment – and I struggled. Recently Haruki Murakami, someone I respect greatly and an esteemed polymath, has been giving a bevy of interviews promoting his latest novels… and if you’ve read one you’ve read them all. On the other side of the coin Noel Gallagher (not a hero of mine by any stretch of the imagination) is an undoubtedly great interviewee but I think a whole book would fail to kepp my attention, no matter how many amusing soundbites it contained. In the middle of these two, Tom Waits, a hero, has actually had a similar book published; whilst he’s known as giving fantastic interview I’ve always found these a bit stagey, a bit too “look how interesting and strange I am”.
Finally, an answer is given as to why Bobby did the Victoria’s Secret advert in 2007…
From a televised press conference, KQED (San Francisco), December 3, 1965
If you were going to sell out to a commercial interest, which one would you choose?
I’ve just finished Gravity’s Rainbow after “reading” it for over a year. Here are some thoughts…
Gravity’s rainbow. I tried to sum it up in 3 words: Awesome. Epic. Confusing.
I’ll start with confusing. The novel jumps around from person to person, place to place, time to time without any warning. I started off by finding this all immensely baffling and tried to go back a page to re-read (being notoriously bad at concentrating on anything approaching a complex text). After rereading I still found that, no, it didn’t really make sense. So after a while I gave up and just let it wash by me, even if it made no sense.
If it makes no sense, one might ask why did I read it, let alone finish it? Frankly, I almost didn’t. It took me a year on and off to finish. I’d read for a week then read a few more books then start again. It was over 900 pages long, and for the record my preferred length for a book is around 100 pages. So: epic. The scope of the book is mind-blowingly vast; I couldn’t possibly list all the plots and characters in the book let alone the themes (even if I actually understood them). The novel is very, very loosely based around the hunt for the V-2 rocket in World War 2 Europe, but takes in a man who inhabits other people’s dreams, quasi-paedophilia, a sentient eternal lightbulb, a pig festival, an orgy, a man who’s every erection predicts a rocket strike and sex. Lots and lots of sex. In fact, if I had to say what the book was about I’d say it was a bizarre Freudian analysis of war. But not really. Actually don’t quote me on that.
And finally to awesome. I read the book for over a year. I’ve a terrible attention span. It’s confusing. But it has some of the finest writing I’ve ever encountered and is full of more ideas, history, pseudo history, science, pseudo science, mysticism, pseudo mysticism (is that a thing?) than I’ve ever encountered before. It’s as if Pynchon decided that it wasn’t good enough to cram a thousand short stories’ worth of ideas into a novel, ensuring each one is beautifully rendered with bizarre slang and songs, but that he had to completely rewrite – possibly even destroy – the novel as well.
Anyways, part of me wishes he’d written it in a linear, more coherent fashion, Dan Brown style. But I suspect that mystery and a search for the unfindable is the essence of the book. And if I can’t find the meaning of the book properly, really, hasn’t Pynchon done his job?
I really like the 33 1/3 book series. Each one is a small pocket sized book about a “classic” album written in whatever style the author sees fit. They’re short and they’re about music. I’m bound to love them. With this in mind I thought I’d give a (very) short review of each 33 1/3 book I’ve read. Please note, with some of these books it’s been many years since I read them so the review may be grossly unfair.
Funnily enough, this was once found by 33 1/3 publisher who said it had “some very strange opinions” or something like that.
Full list of available books here.
The first in the series and a goody. Tells the story of this gorgeous album througha mixture of personal anecdote, interviews with it’s creators and a grand overarching theory of the “Imagined American South”. Does what it does really well, but, as with other books in the series, suffers from repitition. I would also have enjoyed a bit more analysis of the songs. Lovely stuff, though.
2. Forever Changes by Andrew Hultkrans – 4/5
An interesting book that focuses mainly on Arthur Lee and LA at the time of Forever Changes. Some interesting theories and a good read that grounds you in the time place and psyche it came from. I can’t help escape the feeling that Mr Hultkrans picked his favourite theorists and shoehorned them into book. On the plus side some awesome stuff about gnosticism.
Interesting account. I was fearing that this book would be an irritating “isn’t this amazing” type-of-thing about a classic album that is really ok when compared to the artist’s other work. Not at all. Inglis examines the dichotomy between Harvest being Neil Young’s best selling album and one of his least appreciated “good” albums well. Enjoyable in that sense but, much like the album itself, has some massive highlights and passages of dullness. A good book but not one of the greatest in the 33 1/3 series – much like Harvest in Neil Young’s oeuvre.
Pretty good account; gives a good song by song overview of the album and it’s importance but isn’t really that dynamically written.
Wonderful coming of age story using Meat Is Murder as it’s backbone. I bought this in New Zealand and read it in a capsule hotel in Osaka. Fact.
An enjoyable enough read but a bit disappointing, really. Good on the recording of the album and the times that produced it but there’ a big Syd Barret/rest of Pink Floyd shaped hole in it. Cavanagh decides against a Sydsplotation tome but makes comments along the lines of “the other 3 didn’t take lsd”. So how did they feel about the Syd’s psychedelia and hangers on? hmmmmm. Also there’s far too many exclamation marks!
Solid rather than great book which gives a good contextualisation about the album without really drawing you into it.
Written by my namesake and former Only Ones guitarist, John Perry, this is a standard background + track by track offering. Enjoyable enough but slight.
Focusses primarily on Ian Curtis and tells a story familiar to anyone who’s ever read Mojo. Found the writing a bit prickly at points.
10. Sign ‘o’ The Times by Michaelangelo Matos 4/5
Starts off brilliantly with a picture of the author’s young life in Minnesota and the cultural landscape of the 80s. Matos moves on to write really well about SOTT’s tracks individually but in just not a gripping a manner as his initial overview. Highly recommended.
A fat volume that exhaustively tells the story of this album. Interesting enough.
Not the Beatles’ best album but one with a lot of stories surrounding it. I enjoyed this enough to watch the film. icy.
13. Live At The Apollo by Douglas Wolk 4.5/5
Wow. Brilliantly juxtaposes the recording of this live album with the Cuban Missile Crises that was raging when it was recorded. Only drawback being the lack of insight into how one affected the other.
14. Aqualung by Allan Moore – 2.5/5
Unfortunately not the same Alan Moore that wrote Watchmen. This is a mainly straight musical recount of the album which comes alive when incidental details are included. Moore is an engaging and generous writer who makes me wish I liked Jethro Tull mo(o)re. But not that much.
15. Ok Computer by Dai Griffiths 1.5/5
Let me count the ways in which this book fails… firstly it’s prickly, I’ve complained about some of the other books constantly referring to the “genius” of their albums but sometimes I wonder whether this guy even likes OK Computer. He brings up interesting concepts, such as OKC being the first “cd album” but fails to bring any real enlightenment upon the subject – spending a long time failing to do this. He says all we need to appreciate the book is the album itself, whilst constantly quoting esoteric figures. He disses books that focus on interviews whilst using interviews with the band. He quantifies things ab adsurdum (understandable for a music academian I suppose) bringing precisely no insight with it. This gets one and a half when humour or the book it could have been shine through.
A great book if you want to find out what Colin Meloy’s childhood was like, and he’s a very good writer. Not so great if you want to know loads about the Replacements. Not a flaw, it’s the diversity that I like about the series.
17 . Led Zep iv by Erik Davis 2.5/5
Been a while since i read this. Ummm it was ok? I learnt how to play Black Dog and liked Led Zeppelin as much as before.
18 . Exile On Main Street by Bill janovitz 2.5/5
I lost this on a plane and had to rebuy it. Ah, much like the album, it’s ok but I still think the Rolling Stones are an overrated bunch of knobs.
19 . Pet Sounds by Jim Fusilli 2/5
This book was boring. Too much music theory, too much “Brian was an underappreciated genius”, “brain’s dad was a dick”, “This album is very good.” etc.
21. Armed Forces by Franklin Bruno 2/5
I’ll have to start by saying I’m a fan of Bruno’s work as a musician, he’s a great songwriter. Unfortunately, this book didn’t work for me. It’s put together alphabetically (I think?) making it difficult to follow a thread of the album and focusses far too much on the music structurally for me to find it interesting (even as a semi musician myself). Works best when Bruno talks about Costello in social context which gets the books it’s 2 stars.
22. Murmur by J. Niimi 3.5/5
This book was fun. Gave a real sense of time and place given. if I remember correctly they refer to Stipe/Buck as European when they mean “artsy”.
A tough one this. Suffers from innumerable writing crimes;the purplest of prose; the constant reference to it’s subject as a genius; too much of an agenda (to place Jeff Buckley with in a female/black context <which is understable, I suppose>). But, but, but… It did make me appreciate an album I hated for years (blame open mike nights circa 2003) and I enjoyed reading it. Although it never mentions the words “ok for AOR” or “kinda bland”.
25 Kick Out the Jams – MC5 1969 Don McLeese 3/5
Another enjoyable book that makes you wish you were there maaaaaaannn. Got me into The MC5 (didn’t think it would) but is a bit too assured of it’s subjects greatness. Also I felt there was to much authorial projection in there about what was important or not in the late 60s/early 70s.
Really brings alive Bowie during his Berlin period, mainly ignoring the rest of Bowie’s earlier and later work which works really well. Loads of great stories with a focus on the phenomenal music. Not quite convinced by his argument that the whole album’s about schizophrenia.
27. Born In The USA Geoffrey Himes 2.5/5
and it was alrighhht, I guess. interesting how much effort Brucey put into his lyrics and that. Funny that the writer considers the album a failure (a Diamond album! Sold over 10 million etc etc) as Springsteeb could have released 4 “just as good”
Coming as clumsy fan fiction at points, this novella is nevertheless a compelling read. Some of the references seem shoehorned in (The Graduate! Martin Luther King shot!) and the writing about the album itself sometimes felt shoehorned in a “this is the bit that makes it about BIg Pink” way (something that Meat Is Murder an Master Of Reality don’t suffer from). All this being said very enjoyable and evocative, would probably have been better as a standalone book.
The best selling album in the series and you can see why. Although not the best it is about an album with mystery at it’s core – she delves deep and gets the story behind the album well. Has a big Jeff Mangum sized hole in the middle though.
Great fun this book. Tells a story about the Beastie Boys and the Dust Brothers I’d never known and sheds a lot of light on the album.
Great. an album I thought I knew from start to finish blown completely open by thoughtful analysis with a good history of the band too.
Got me through a very boring job when I used to hide in the toilet and read it. Good without really being extraordinary.
I remember this book being pedantic and not that illuminating. I still read it all though. Memories, aye?
36. Loveless by Mike McGonigal 4.5/5
Loved this book. Good access to the band and how they made this beast of a record. Made me want to form a MBV rip off band. Then I remembered I can’t play guitar.
A well written account that places this The Who album in it’s cultural context, leaving their earlier and later careers to the side. I enjoyed Dougan’s enthusiasm for his subject and it was interesting to get an American’s well informed take on a very British album.
Full of lovely anecdotes about the albums creation. I love the tale of Robert Pollard taking some acid seeing his face turn into his sons and then writing “The Goldheart Mountain Top Queen Directory.” It all makes sense now! N.B. It doesn’t all make sense now.
I actually gave up ont his one. Restarted t about a year later to discover it was alright. It’s just a bit breathlessly convinced of the albums genius. I like Daydream Nation but it’s not my favourite Sonic Youth album so this grated. A lot.
41. Use your Illusion 1 and 2 by Eric Weisbard 4/5
This book was great. Really took the piss out of the bloat and pomposity of these terrible albums. Refers to Axl’s different vocal stylings as “scary deep voiced man”.
44. Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica by Kevin Courrier 1.5/5
God, this book irritated me. The writer cna write but mainly did this as a “hey remember the 60s?” thing. I know more about this album than he does and blah blah blah. But seriously, he quoted LYRICS THAT DON’T EXIST in the book. It’s just goddamn lazy.
Enthusiastic without being breathless, the writer really draws you into the album and sheds a lot of new light on it. I read this whilst suffering from a heavy cold in New Zealand, hiding on a bunk bed in a dorm full of 6 other people.
Didn’t really engage me. I love this album but the book was just, well, boring. Why was it boring? I don’t know. Pseudo academic maybe? A bit snotty? i can’t remember.
Urrrg. Absolutely nails the albums appeal at the start of the book and then…. fills the rest of the book up with precisely nothing and then writes a lot about a commercial the song Pink Moon was used in.
The best 33 1/3 book about the worst album (IMHO). Asks the question”what is taste” in a heartfelt, personal manner. Dude cries at a Celine Dion concert. What could be more beautiful than that?
I remember remarkably little baout this book save for the writer makes a big point about how Swordfishtrombones should be written swordf/isht/rombo/nes on the front. no anecdotes. nothing.
Enjoyable but not great. Good insight into the album ‘n all. I’m not sure I’d like to hang out with Throbbing Gristle. umm… oh yeah some nice personal anecdotes too.
Awesome novella about a boy put in a mental hospital. Gave the world the phrase “Why does everything great not only have to stop being great but turn to utter shit?”
I liked this book enough to email the author to tell him so. Now my favourite thrash metal album. In your face Metallica.
An interesting book about an interesting album. They wrote songs on the train, ya know.
63. XO by Matthew Le May 2/5
Boring, much like his fellow P4ker’s Pink Moon. Focusses on the media phenomenon of Smith (which is ok) and his “artistic process”. Seeing Smith changed a few words when writing a song wasn’t interesting to me.
In depth but I had the same problem with this book as Daydream Nation. Continually reiterates how much of a genius Nas is and how fantastic Illmatic is when I’m only beginning to “get” the album and a lot of it leaves me cold…
67. Another Green World by Geeta Dayal 4/5
A great in depth look about the album and all it’s tricks and turns. Made me appreciate it more and realise why it’s not a vocal album but sounds like one.
68. Zaireeka by Mark Richardson 4/5
I really like Mark Richardson’s writing in general. He’s an open and generous writer about the things he loves. Gets nicely to the heart of the enigma of the… wait where was I…. oh yeah of this album(x4).
Originally I thought this was crap. Just being a glossary followed by a track by track followed by an interview followed by a crossword. BUT it’s REALLY insightful (written by a band member) and entertaining. only worth owning if you love the album otherwise you’ll be left cold.
70. Facing Future by Dan Kois 4/5
A great book about a song in a patchy album. Relaly greta for it’s take on a slightly tragic life, Hawaiian culture and how one song (which I’ve played at a wedding) took over the world.
Very much a fan’s effort and doesn’t really transcend that. nice enough but inconsequential.
Yeah, turns out I knew bugger all about slint till I read this book. Made me realise how seriously awesomely brilliantly flabbergastingly something something this album is. But seriously, good book, rich with great anecdotes.
Radiohead win by being the first band to have two 33 1/3’s about them. This one focusses on time and the album’s relationship to it. Fascinating and very academic. Probably better than a “Thom wanted to do an electronic album/Amnesiac was b-sides” book.
Oh dear. What happened? The funny thing is Rob Trucks can write but seriously. 1/5 of the book going on about himself for no reason! Complete focus on Lyndsey Buckingham – yes it was a labour of love for him but there were 4 other band members 2 of whom wrote 2/3 of the album! Banging on about not being able to interview Lynsdey Buckingham! Whining so much whining! But I did finish it, just bewildered the whole time I was reading.
This book is fantastic. Shteamer gets close interviews with the band and associates and has an obvious passion for his subject. Made me love this album in a way I thought I never would. Indeed it’s what Deaner is talking about.
A strange book, but a goodie (much like the album itself).
Attfield has close access to the band and a deep knowledge of his subject matter, writing in acompelling manner – my favourite line “J.Mascis had a surprise bypass at the age of 12.” Interesting, for me as a DJ afficianado, is the stuff left out, but as the book does quote extensively from Our Band Could Be Your Life I think there’s an assumption that people might know some of the story. I smiled at the end.
83 Marquee Moon Television 1977 Bryan Waterman 3.5/5
An enjoyable book about a great album, which predicably doubles up of as a history of CBGBs. Not entirely groundbreaking but a good insight into the album.
86 Fear of Music Talking Heads 1979 Jonathan Lethem 2.5/5
Wasn’t too sure about this one at first, the style annoyed me but I got into it in the end. Not my favourite Talking Heads Album by a long shot mind. Have since read a book of his. It’s really good.
88. They Might Be Giants’ Flood by S. Alexander Reed and Philip Sandifer 3.5/5
Great book about artistic process and the (New England) Americaness of TMBG. reminds me that I really should get more into them.
89. Andrew W.K.’s I Get Wet by Phillip Crandall 4.5/5
loved this book. hilarious story which is as fun a read as the album is a listen (well for 5 minutes). Really goes into the process of making an album and the fact that WK played everything (and lied about millions of contributors) and didn’t make himself up.
90. Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II
by Marc Weidenbaum 3/5
I love this album. One of my top 5 of all time. interesting about the facts and the creation and the art but lacked a little sould for my liking. Ah i dunno could never be as mysterious as the source material.
93. J Dilla’s Donuts by Jordan Ferguson 4/5
A great book explaining the culture Dilla came from, his life story and his genius and rule breaking. Learnt a lot.
94. The Beach Boys’ Smile by Luis Sanchez 2/5
Another missed Beach Boys opportunity. The most storied album of all time and this managed to be a bit dull and through the motions. Surf’s Up’s a cool song, isn’t it?
95. Oasis’ Definitely Maybe by Alex Niven 3.5/5
Another great “time and place” book. Some really interesting assertions (Oasis treating rock as hiphop and sampling all the hits) and some dodgy (relaly not hearing MBV’s influence). Love how he pretends that Digsy’s Dinner never happened and he makes me wonder what the world would have been like if John Smith hadn’t died 😦
96. Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville by Gina Arnold 4.5/5
This album is amazing and I hadn’t heard it before reading this. Maybe that’s biased me but I can’t believe the amount of shit Liz Phair got. Way better than Main Street.
97. Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kirk Walker Graves 4/5
Another one that made me realise an album was FUCKING BRILLIANT. Thanks. Would read again.
98. Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album by Charles Fairchild 3.5/5
This recontextualised the album very well. I’d always thought of this album as radical but the book points out it was really the crest of a wave and sadly, a dead end…
100. Michael Jackson’s Dangerous by Susan Fast 3/5
This album’s singles really were the sound of my childhood. Not as good as the writer says (there’s some real shit on here) but now I know MJ made a basketball and loony tunes video.
101. Can’s Tago Mago by Alan Warner 4/5
I feel like I know exactly what it was like to be a teenager in rural Scotland in the 70s. so different to now. Good book. thumbs up.
102 . Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe by Tara Murtha 3/5
Good at dissecting the “mystery” of Bobbie Gentry and how different she was from the image presented in the OTBJ song. BG comes across as steely, really determined, ready to make money… i sighed when I found out she was a big Ayn Rand fan.
104. Devo’s Freedom of Choice by Evie Nagy 3.5/5
A great overview of Devo’s career. Now know it’s pronounced boogie boy. Love the fact Devo’s favourite part of the records was the merch pull out.
105. Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables by Michael Stewart Foley 3/5
The Dead Kennedys are one of those Clash style self mythologisers that annoy me but this book gives a great look into the politics of San Francisco that created them.
106. Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. by Andrew Schartmann 2.5/5
An interesting concept for some wonderful music. I now know how game music was made. Was hoping for more from this but I couldn’t tell you what.
107. Beat Happening’s Beat Happening by Bryan C. Parker 3/5
Really just made me want to be in a band that could do anything they wanted and it’d be great, Sat in a room with Calvin Johnson once. for a bit.
So by my reckoning, as of 10th April 2017, I’ve read 76 of the 120 available books. Go me.
John Perry, September 2011 (updated every so often)