For all the Irish enthusiasts out there: Larry Kirwan, lead vocalist and guitarist of Celtic-rock act Black 47, has written a new novel, Rockin' the Bronx. He's out on a national tour that'll stop by the Kansas City Irish Center, in the lower floor of Union Station, this Saturday, April 21, at 7 p.m. Kirwan will perform some songs and do a reading from the new book, which is about an Irish immigrant in the Bronx in the 1980s, and his other novel, Liverpool Fantasies, an alternate history of the Beatles. Hit the jump to peep some video.
The recent paperback release of Barney Hoskyns' Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits finally led to me grabbing the book and taking a read through. As a hardback, the book was of a rather intimidating girth. The idea of taking on the life of an artist with such a wide and varied career was a bit off-putting, knowing that there was a lot of material to be covered.
Happily, Hoskyns manages to make Waits' nearly 40-year career seem far less daunting a task to dip into than it would seem at the outset. The author avoids the frequent issues of dealing with a life story of such length -- namely, that of the biography becoming less the tale of someone's life, and more akin to the Pentateuch, with a litany of "so and so much such and such, who formed you know who, which became what's his name." 2008's Willie Nelson: An Epic Life by Joe Nick Patoski is a good example of that approach to musical history.
As frontman for the Locust and owner of the Three One G record label, Justin Pearson would seem to be just the sort of person from whom you'd want to read an autobiography. Despite the fact that he's still under the age of 35, the man has had a fascinating life.
It's shame that From the Graveyard of the Arousal Industry, Pearson's new book from Soft Skull, is not as fascinating a story as it could be. The stories contained within its pages are quite illuminating, and even entertaining once you get past the opening chapters, which deal with his parents' alcohol abuse and his father's suicide.
However, the downfall to this autobiography is that it's not a cohesive narrative. While every story falls on a mostly linear path from then until now, Pearson's chapters would all do better to remain as stand-alone stories. If From the Graveyard... is read using that concept, it's far better than if read as a start-to-finish story.
Why is it that most of the 'zines I get for review come from the UK? It's a mystery, but I thank the island of Britannia for providing such great reading material.
The newest UK 'zine to cross my desk is the Cardiff-based Jerk Store. Well, formerly based in Cardiff -- the editor, Alex, along with co-writer and girlfriend Kelly, moved to Perth, Western Australia.
In any case, Jerk Store is a well-done pop-punk 'zine, featuring interviews that manage to ask questions that go beyond the usual "so, how's the tour going?" For instance, asking Off With Their Heads whether or not they might start writing love songs because every flier for the band mentions "all the dark lyrics and self-deprecating lyrics and stuff."
Steve Conway's book, Shiprocked: Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline, is an odd duck. It manages to conveigh a large amount of information regarding Conway's time about the ship Ross Revenge as a DJ for the UK's Radio Caroline pirate station. However, at the same time, it really doesn't manage to evoke any sort of emotional reaction from the reader.
There was obviously a convivial atmosphere aboard the boat, as well as times of great stress and frsutration, but Conway doesn't manage to imbue any of his prose with those emotions. He says he was worried or stressed or joyous, but only once does the author actually bring those emotions through in his writing. The emotional impact comes only at the very end of the story, when the Ross Revenge's anchor chain breaks, and the ship drifts into the Goodwin Sands and is grounded.
Greil Marcus' compendium of punk writings, In the Fascist Bathroom: Punk in Pop Music, 1977-1992, is the sort of book that everyone needs on their bookshelf -- or, more accurately, in the bathroom itself. It's a collection of mostly short and pithy columns from the front lines of punk, which have unfortunately been rewritten.
According to Marcus' introduction:
Most of the pieces in this book have been rewritten to some degree, not to change judgments, but to correct factual errors, improve clarity, or flesh out passages originally cut for reasons of space or editors' incomprehension.
Dave Tompkins has written a book that is far more than the history of a piece of equipment. While How to Wreck a Nice Beach is, as its subtitle says, the history of "The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop ," it is more accurately summed up in the subtitle to the subtitle: "The Machine Speaks."
Tompkins follows a linear path of the vocoder, with sidetracks into the Talk Box, Sun Ra's Outer Visual Communicator, the Speak 'n' Spell, and the Moog synthesizer. He traces it from its early development as a piece of equipment designed to break up communications and encrypt them in a wash of random noise onward, through a myriad of forms, all the up to where we know it today, which is as something that will take your voice and make it sound like a robot (the Cylons on the original Battlestar Galactica, most notably).
As a journalist, I've a particular affinity for personal anthologies, wherein a writer takes material from the width and breadth of their career and presents it with commentary. That's what you get when you read Joe Evans III's Like A Bowling Ball Through the Door: A Personal Anthology Part One.
This photocopied and stapled 'zine collects material Evans wrote for magazines like Razorcake, as well as longtime punk scene staple MaxiumumRocknroll. The interviews were, for me, quite interesting, as they cover artists which have names or a couple of songs with which I'm familiar, but might not know anything past those few details. The interviews with the Goddamn Doo Wop Band and Hunchback, in particular, reveal an interviewer who is intensely familiar with his subjects.
As you read, you can tell Evans is a fan of the bands he's interviewing, but not a fanboy. The questions he asks, such as starting off his interview with the Unlovables by asking guitarist Frank about his involvement with Playboy, reveal that he knows more than the usual "So-and-so is producing your new record. What's that like?" information.
While the artists and labels interviewed in Like A Bowling Ball Through the Door might be a little obscure, and of limited interest to fans outside the underground pop-punk scene, the interviews themselves are worth examining for anyone looking for insights regarding interview techniques.
You can order the 'zine by contacting Evans directly via his website. It'll run about $5 shipped.
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