A blog about Bloomsbury Academic's 33 1/3 series, our other books about music, and the world of sound in general.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Master of Reality

In April we'll be publishing John Darnielle's book about Black Sabbath, which is described thus:

Black Sabbath's Master of Reality has maintained remarkable historical status over several generations; it's a touchstone for the directionless, and common coin for young men and women who've felt excluded from the broader cultural economy. John Darnielle hears it through the ears of Roger Painter, a young adult locked in a southern California adolescent psychiatric center in 1985; deprived of his Walkman and hungry for comfort, he explains Black Sabbath as one might describe air to a fish, or love to an android, hoping to convince his captors to give him back his tapes.

If you'd like a sample of the book, as a PDF, just send an email to me at this address (sabbathsampler at yahoo dot com) and I'll email one right back to you.

In the meantime, here's the first video from the upcoming Mountain Goats album, which hits stores in two or three weeks. I tried that all-white look once on holiday in 1997, and it was a disaster.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Reign in Blood

We're very excited to be gearing up towards publishing D.X. Ferris's book on Reign in Blood, which should be on sale in stores by the end of April. Here's an extract from towards the very start of the book.


Slayer isn’t the biggest band to emerge from the mid-80s thrash movement; better, they’re the standard-bearers of metal itself. They’re revered by groups you know, bands you’d never heard of, and musicians you’d be surprised to hear weigh in on their behalf. Slayer has as many better-than-good albums as any band, but guitarist Kerry King says they wouldn’t play another full record live. They’re all longer, and none has an unbroken string of favorites. Explains the guitarist, “Everybody likes Reign in Blood.”

The controversial album remains the golden standard for extreme heavy metal. It’s a seamless procession of 10 blindingly fast songs in just 29 minutes, delivered in furious bursts of instrumental precision, with lyrics so striking that Tori Amos was moved to record a cover. Reign in Blood saw the Southern California standouts permanently fuse classic rock’s technical proficiency, hardcore punk’s speed, and metal’s brute power – all captured with crystalline clarity.

“I think it was one of the first records of its genre that was recorded well, which makes a lot of difference,” says producer Jack Endino, who has worked with Nirvana, Soundgarden, and High on Fire. “And that’s why that record has such impact. It wasn’t just a shitty indie band any more. It’s clear, it’s crisp, it rips your head off. It’s the first one I took seriously, and I was not paying attention to metal or thrash much.”

Little wonder, considering the record’s pedigree.

At the time, the team behind Reign in Blood were unusual matches. Years later, the combinations only seem more odd: Reign was produced by Rick Rubin, then just some New York rap dude – albeit a successful one. Then, he was best known for creating hip-hop albums with groups such as Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys. Now he’s a Grammy-winning Producer of the Year, renowned for his work with Johnny Cash, Jay-Z, the Dixie Chicks, and Justin Timberlake. When he’s not producing, he’s the co-head of Columbia Records. Reign was engineered by Andy Wallace, now the first name in rock mixing, producer of Jeff Buckley’s ethereal Grace, and engineer of Nirvana’s earth-shaking Nevermind. Not to mention Slayer themselves, a rock combo for the ages, with thrash’s most combustible onstage chemistry.

Working in a much-maligned genre, guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King emerged as the Lennon and McCartney of speed metal, having penned a collection of blood-soaked scenes comparable to haunting novels like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The record stands as a grim treatise on human nature, a statement of violent naturalism, an unflinching look at the human condition’s darkest corners.

Reign in Blood opens with a song about the true horrors of Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. Three songs about serial killers follow. Two gory tales threaten vengeance from beyond the grave. An explicit indictment mocks religion. A plague obliterates the human race. A Satanic cult slaughter virgins for evil power. A piledriving climax looks at death nine ways from Sunday. It’s grisly stuff. Issued on America’s premier rap label – Def Jam -- at the pinnacle of the thrash movement, Reign in Blood set the bar for an emerging genre called death metal. The record continues to serve as a touchstone for headbanger musicians internationally, from underground to arenas, from Poland to Iowa.

Reign in Blood, it’s a dogma,” says Nergal, frontman of Poland’s Behemoth. “Slayer kills. Reign in Blood is really top of the tops, definitely one of the best extreme metal albums ever. Not just thrash metal. They’re more than just a thrash band. They are a rock band. Slayer stands there along with Metallica, Kiss, and the Beatles.” If, unlike Endino, you were paying attention to metal, Reign is still relevant, recognized as a high-water-mark from a golden age.

“[Reign in Blood], to me, is the epitome of thrash metal,” says Slipknot guitarist Jim Root. “It’s great. I’d definitely give it five stars. It’s straight-forward, no-bullshit. Every song kicks ass. Every riff kicks ass. It’s such a short record — absolutely no way you can get sick of it. I would put that album right up there with [Megadeth’s] Peace Sells and [Metallica’s] Master of Puppets and [Anthrax’s] Among the Living. It changed [metal] for the better.”

Critics, musicians, and fans generally recognize Reign as the quintessential thrash album. You can argue whether the sonic variety of Metallica’s Master of Puppets makes it superior or inferior. Regardless, as Spin magazine’s Joe Gross put it, Reign is “is the thrashiest thrash ever.” The disc marked Slayer’s coronation as the kings of thrash, and their ongoing streak of vitality places them in the small fraternity of rock’s greatest groups. Don’t just take the headbangers’ word for it.

“They are one of the very best American rock bands,” said Greg Kot, host of rock talk show Sound Opinions, a biographer of the hallowed Wilco, and contributor to Rolling Stone. “I take them out of the realm of metal. They are just a pure great rock band of the past 25 years. What they do with a guitar, bass, and drums is unequalled in the history of modern music.”

After more than 25 years, Slayer is still Slayer. The band has only changed drummers. Its other three members are constants. And original skinsman Dave Lombardo returned to the group years before 2006’s Christ Illusion, which netted the band a Grammy win. The musicians interviewed for this book invariably ranked Slayer as the top thrash band, and “top five” among metal bands. Using different criteria, you can argue Slayer, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, or Metallica as the best group in the genre: Biggest? Most influential? Best musicians? But consider this: Metal or otherwise, no group has remained as true to its peak intensity or intent through a continuous career. Any argument to the contrary puts Slayer in contention with some of the greats.

The Rolling Stones are still a top draw, but only a diehard, easy-to-please fan would argue that any material from the past 30 years is more than a pale shade of “Paint it Black.” R.E.M. made great records from 1983 through 1998; some say they’re still good live. The Who has a great legacy. U2 is more popular than ever, but Kerry King’s worst lyrics – and he’s written a couple groaners; who hasn’t? – don’t scrape the bottom of the barrel like “Vertigo.” The Grateful Dead don’t count. Sonic Youth still do their thing, though Rather Ripped is no EVOL.

Mötörhead has never sounded like anything but Mötörhead; and surviving years of mind-melting volume is impressive, though playing their slower material isn’t as physically demanding. Pantera? Great band, never fell off, maybe more influential than Slayer – but not as groundbreaking. The midtempo heroes of AC/DC certainly never took a step off their boat. The Ramones never hit bottom, and went out on top. What if Black Flag, the hardcore band that stands as the epitome of do-it-your-self independence and uncompromising attitude, had stayed together for 25 years? Imagine if the Stooges had stuck around to make eleven albums. There is no “What if?” with Slayer. Slayer never sucked. Slayer’s worst is never too far from their best.

And Reign in Blood is Slayer’s best. It’s one thing for a single alpha-geek music fan run his mouth for 100 pages; don’t take my word for it. Read on, and you’ll hear from 45 musicians, producers, and artists who find Reign in Blood an enduringly significant piece of art. And 20 others were there to see Reign happen. None of are them the type to shout – as countless fans do – “FUCKIN’ SLAYER!” and leave it at that. But Reign in Blood has touched their life. And they have some thoughts as to why.

What band besides Led Zeppelin has such a cumulative consensus? Slayer’s high-profile fans include metal musicians from three generations. Old-school hardcore legends. A singer-songwriter piano queen. A composer-musicologist. A tattoo-artist TV star. Underground rappers. Hip-hop heroes. Ukrainian gypsy punks. They all agree: Like Black Sabbath before them, Slayer has an appeal that goes beyond the traditional hesher demographic. Slayer is the one thrash band palatable to music fans that don’t own a Metallica album and never heatedly debated the merits of various Megadeth lineups.

“Slayer have as much integrity as these hipster bands who carp on and on about integrity,” says Henry Rollins. “They just go out and make that record and do that tour. They don’t talk about integrity. They don’t need to. And that’s what gives Slayer undeniable power, unimpeachable credibility. If you notice, the people that are into Slayer, you can’t convince them there’s any better thing to be doing on that night. And it’s for good reason: because Slayer’s never sold out.”


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stores of Note

As was mentioned in the comments recently, I tend to be a little over-reliant on Amazon.com on this blog. It's easier for linkage, really, but it doesn't reflect the fact that the 33 1/3 books are available in a whole range of independent book and music stores around the US. (And, I hope, the planet.)

We haven't done this for a while on the blog, but I'd love to create a definitive list of stores that carry the series, which I can then compile into one uber-document and link to permanently, from this site. So whether you're in Kentucky, Cardiff, Calgary, Canberra or Clearwater, it would be great if you could leave a store or two in the commments section below - a store that you know supports the series.

I'll start with two of my favourites:

Book Court in Brooklyn
Equator Books in Venice, CA (seriously, that is one awesome bookstore!)

Update: thanks for the stores mentioned in the comments so far. Here are a few more:

Horizon Records, Greenville SC
Atomic Records, Milwaukee WI
Boo Boo Records, San Luis Obispo, CA
Book Cellar, Chicago IL
Bull Moose Records, Portland ME
Dimple Records, Sacramento CA
Fatfin Records, Salt Lake City, UT
Grimeys, Nashville TN
Guestroom Records, Norman OK
Indy CD and Vinyl, Indianapolis IN
Repo Records, Philadelphia PA

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Carl Wilson reads in NYC this week!

Just a quick post-MLK reminder that Carl Wilson will be talking about his Celine Dion book tonight and tomorrow:

At 7.30pm, Carl will be reading at Word - the lovely new bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. There is, apparently, free beer at this event.


As part of the acclaimed Happy Ending Music and Reading Series hosted by Amanda Stern, Carl will be appearing alongside Trinie Dalton and Charles Bock. The show starts at 8pm, the doors open at 7pm, and it's recommended that you get there early. Location: 302 Broome Street, between Forstyh and Eldridge, in Manhattan.

* Both readings are the first item in this week's Flavorpill bulletin.

* BlackBook Magazine has Five Surprising Facts About Celine Dion up on their website (complete with youtube links to back them up).

* Last week, Toronto's Eye Weekly took a closer look at the book in conjunction with Celine's new album.

* Canada's Globe and Mail reviewed the book over the weekend as well and find it "insightful, engaging and unexpectedly moving."

* Northern California's weekly Bohemian also reviewed the book.

* And finally, Carl has created a blog with tons of links to print reviews, radio interviews, online miscellany and the rest of it. And he unwittingly stole my Raymond Carver pun that I'd been saving for a blog headline: What We Talk About...

And of course you can also head over to Zoilus to read about how Barack Obama may have read his book on the campaign bus.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I'm delighted to announce that David Smay's wonderfully erudite and entertaining book on Swordfishtrombones (no. 53 in the series) is now on sale in stores around the country (despite the fact that Amazon, when I looked this morning, was still saying that the book has not yet released - it has). Update!! This is now fixed.

From the back cover:


"At the end of the seventies Tom Waits felt trapped in a stalled career, his musical persona an artistic straightjacket. At a dark, desperate time in his life he got the phone call that offered a way out and met the woman who would change his life. What followed was Swordfishtrombones, one of the most daring transformations in pop music history."

Tom Waits is an elusive subject, sly and evasive. Through extensive research and a close, playful reading of his work, David Smay unwraps the vinegar pleasures of Swordfishtrombones and creates a freewheeling portrait of an American genius. This is the album where Tom Waits beats the blues with a hammer, drags his piano into the rain and burrows deep underground. This is the story of a man who reinvented himself and changed the musical landscape forever, a love story built on exotic percussion and phantom landscapes. This is a story about crows and mules.

David Smay has co-edited two books on music with Kim Cooper: Lost in the Grooves and Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth. He has written for the Oxford American and has dithered about pop music on NPR, French television and documentaries only shown at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. His lives in San Francisco with his wife, Jacqueline, and two children, Emmett and Matilda.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Content Never Stops!

Speaking of free beer, if you want to listen to a great interview with Marc Woodworth, author of our Bee Thousand book, the Missouri Review can help you out.

Click here to go to a podcast they put together last month, and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Two NYC readings next week

Carl Wilson, author of our Celine Dion book, will be popping down to New York next week, and he'll be doing a couple of readings while he's in town. If you could make it out to either of these, we'd really love to see you there!


At 7.30pm, Carl will be reading at Word - the lovely new bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. There is, apparently, free beer at this event.


As part of the acclaimed Happy Ending Music and Reading Series hosted by Amanda Stern, Carl will be appearing alongside Trinie Dalton and Charles Bock. The show starts at 8pm, the doors open at 7pm, and it's recommended that you get there early. Location: 302 Broome Street, between Forstyh and Eldridge, in Manhattan.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shoot Out the Lights

Another of the books we'll be publishing in April (OK, this one will probably be May) is Hayden Childs' analysis of Shoot Out the Lights. The book has a fictional narrator who's convinced that he is Richard Thompson's doppelganger - but despite (or perhaps because of) that, it's still a remarkably in-depth, passionate reading of the album. Here's an extract, and a little treat from youtube...


Where's the justice and where's the sense?
When all the pain is on my side of the fence
I'm walking on a wire, I'm walking on a wire
And I'm falling

This verse brings in a belated note of concern for her situation. She knows that she’s being abused. She knows that her relationship is one-sided. Linda’s voice carries a perfect note of weariness in these lines. Richard takes a short solo over a verse/refrain backing, and it’s one of the most expressive guitar solos ever recorded. It captures the singer’s inner life: the sadness, the growing sense of injustice, the pain of broken bonds, the sheer uncertainty about how to proceed.

He starts with some notes in the lowest register of his guitar. The sound is all Fender guitar through Fender amp, pure and tremulous and springy. He has deep reverb coating everything and what sounds like a Uni-Vibe pedal, which simulates an organ’s rotating speaker. Here, it acts as a phaser to give the sound the crests and valleys of a sine wave. A couple of phrases in the lowest register, then a quick virtuosic run up the neck to mid-high. Notice the sympathetic harmony notes he plays with less volume around his main melody. A lesser guitarist would play single notes here, but Thompson plays two, sometimes even adding that phantom third harmony note, with an ease that seems unpremeditated and unforced. Then he draws some quick bass notes into a quick rehash of his midrange phrasing, like a summary of what he’s already done, and uses that momentum to build to a choppy, knotty part that steps up and steps down simultaneously, a little riff most often found in Bakersfield-style chicken-pickin’, although here awash in rock guitar tone (the Uni-Vibe and reverb) and wholly in service to the song.

On the heels of the solo, the song repeats the bridge. Some background vocal “ooo-ooo”s are brought in to heighten the litany of sorrows.

Too many steps to take
Too many spells to break
Too many nights awake
And no one else
This grindstone's wearing me
Your claws are tearing me
Don't use me endlessly
It's too long, it's too long to myself

Wherever you turn from grief, you turn to grief again. Last verse. Linda sounds almost meek, but her words turn the tables on her other.

It scares you when you don't know
Whichever way the wind might blow

Quiet now. Almost a whisper.

I'm walking on a wire, I'm walking on a wire
And I'm falling

They repeat those final words a couple of more times, Richard’s harmony vocal growing higher and both growing louder each time, until they’re both almost screaming on the last line. This is followed by a keening guitar lead like a rush of wind in freefall. The end winds down with another chop-chop stutter and a bent final note.

On RAFFERTY’S FOLLY, the song is not significantly different, but the differences are enough to demarcate the mediocre earlier version from the sublime later one. First, the RAFFERTY version has very little dynamic to the music. The LIGHTS version brings instruments in and out, but the RAFFERTY version more or less just cranks through the changes. Also, the RAFFERTY version further exacerbates the lack of subtlety by having a piano pound out whole-note chords through the bridge. The effect would not be out of place in a Journey power-ballad. Linda sings beautifully, but her vocal lacks the raw emotion of the LIGHTS version. She never sounds as if she is just about to crack, nor does she stretch around certain words. It’s simply too matter-of-fact for the song. Richard’s solos are okay, but fail to carry the true impact of the song. They also don’t really sound like Richard Thompson solos. His style usually involves bent notes, harmonies and overtones. The solos on the RAFFERTY version of “Walking on a Wire” are single-note wailers noticeably short on Thompson’s usual bag of tricks.

I freely admit to being a glutton myself for this song. I can rarely stand to listen to it only once. It has a rare combination of perfections in content, performance, emotion, sound, and tone that puts it into an elite rank of all-around perfect songs. I can think of very few other songs that I’d rank similarly. The Band’s “Whispering Pines.” The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.” Television’s “Marquee Moon.” The Mekons’ “Memphis, Egypt.”


Monday, January 14, 2008


One of a handful of books we'll be publishing in the series in April is Phil Shaw's study of Patti Smith's Horses album. Here's an excerpt from the book...


The trio wound up 1974 with a brief tour of California, playing shows to small but committed crowds in Berkeley and Los Angeles. Since their residency at Max’s Kansas City the previous summer, several new songs had been added to the repertoire: “Break It Up,” “Birdland,” “Distant Fingers,” “Free Money,” “Space Monkey,” “Redondo Beach,” “Snowball,” and a version of Them’s “Gloria” (1964). With the addition of these songs, the cabaret elements that had defined their earlier performances began to recede. Although Smith continued to preface the performances with poetry readings, the trio were becoming, almost despite themselves, a rock ’n’ roll act. This shift in emphasis necessitated a reconsideration of their live sound. On at least one occasion during their Californian tour, the trio had played with a drummer (reputedly Jonathan Richman, of the Modern Lovers), but more pressing, from Kaye’s point of view at least, was the wish to add a second guitar player. Following auditions, a young Czechoslovakian émigré named Ivan Kral was recruited. Although not technically gifted, Kral impressed the trio with his ability to sustain a rhythmic “field,” enabling Kaye to focus on lead lines. Smith, meanwhile, was garnering notice as a poet once again, following a triumphant performance at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project New Year Extravaganza. The event, which included readings by Yoko Ono, John Giorno, and Allen Ginsburg, was hailed by the Village Voice as a cultural landmark, with Patti Smith singled out as a name to watch. By the close of 1975, this prediction would, of course, come true. But it would be rock ’n’ roll, not poetry, that would establish her fame.

Following performances at CBGBs, the band began to attract some serious record company interest, even going so far as to record a demo tape for RCA in February 1975. To date, only two tracks from this session have merited official release, but “Redondo Beach” and “Distant Fingers,” both included on the second disk of the 2002 LAND compilation, mark a noticeable advance, in terms of performance and production values, on the two tracks recorded at Electric Lady the previous summer (though how much of this is down to the 2002 digital remix is uncertain). And yet, while the vocals on “Redondo Beach” sound fresh and intimate, the players, in the absence of a drummer, are clearly struggling to sustain the song’s reggae rhythm. Despite Sohl’s best efforts, the lack of hi-hat and snare renders the performance somewhat flat. In live shows, this deficiency could be masked by Smith’s charisma and the sheer gung-ho attitude of the band, but on tape the lack of a solid rhythmic base is acutely apparent. It would be several months before the band would recruit a permanent drummer.

Yet despite such gaps, interest in the band would continue to grow. From the late 60s onward, Clive Davis had a reputation for nurturing strong female talent. As president of Columbia records, he had signed Laura Nyro and Janis Joplin; now, as president of the newly created Arista records, he had Patti Smith in his sights. Back in 1971, following the St. Mark’s show, Davis had tried to secure Smith for CBS. Smith, wisely it seems, turned this offer down. Four years later, noting RCA’s interest, and encouraged by Lou Reed, Davis sprang once again into action, reputedly offering her a $750,000 contract by way of incentive. The deal was apparently clinched mid set at a CBGBs gig in March. Despite the stringent terms of the contract, which called for seven records of new material within a four-year period, Smith was eager to sign, reportedly informing Davis, at one of their first meetings, “I’m not getting any younger [Smith was twenty-eight]. I have to be in a rush—I don’t have the strength to take too long becoming a star” (Hiss and McClelland, 1975). This attitude chimed well with the fledgling company’s aggressive demands. As Bob Feiden, Davis’s second in command stated, “If artists are not willing to kill themselves selling themselves, why sign them? It’s not worth it” (ibid.). But while Smith was willing to work, she was also careful to maintain artistic control, even to the point of dictating the terms of her own marketing campaigns. As Bokris notes, it was Smith who came up with the line “three-chord rock merged with the power of the word” and who pushed for the “beyond gender” tag (1998). The singer also ensured that the contract recognize her right to exercise control over the production of her records. This clause, as we shall see, would prove decisive during the recording of Horses. Smith’s deal with Arista was announced by John Rockwell in The New York Times on Friday, March 28, 1975. Reviewing one of the CBGBs shows, Rockwell predicted a glittering future for Davis’s new star: “Miss Smith has it in her to be as significant an artist as American pop music has produced.” Sensing a change in the air, the esteemed critic urged “that anyone who wants to see Miss Smith in the ambi¬ence in which she has heretofore flourished—the seedy little club—had better hurry on down to CBGB.” Protected, for now, from the grosser aspects of record company interference, throughout the following month Smith and her band continued to play sets in the Bowery, appearing, as always, alongside Television. Still without a drummer, the three instrumentalists continued, in Rockwell’s words, to supply a “compensating percussiveness.”

First Things first

Steve Catanzarite's 33 1/3 on U2's Achtung Baby got a nice write up at First Things. You can read the full review here.

"When was the last time you read a book on rock ‘n’ roll that had a bibliography with St. Augustine (City of God and the Confessions), J. Budziszewski, Peter Kreeft, Thomas Merton, Fulton Sheen (3 books), Richard John Neuhaus, and George Weigel?

If you don’t already know about the Christianity present in U2, or have never heard Achtung Baby, find a copy and listen to it. And if you are interested in a thoughtful engagement by a Catholic with the best of modern rock, you might like Achtung Baby: Meditations on Love in the Shadow of the Fall."

Odds and ends

Sleevage is a blog all about music cover art. And it's endlessly entertaining. Scroll down on the main page and check out the archives. Incidentally, they are also looking for people to write for them.

My favorite quote so far, concerning Patrick Nagel, designer of Duran Duran's Rio cover art:
In a tragic, but morbidly humorous turn, Nagel (who apparently enjoyed his fair share of booze, cigs and fast food and hated exercise) suffered a fatal heart attack after a celebrity ‘aerobathon’. Thankfully he didn’t associate with the type of folks who might prop him up with sunglasses and run around pretending he was still alive, slamming his nuts into poles and pushing him from speedboats.
* * * * *

And fourfour has this to say of Carl Wilson's 33 1/3 on Celine Dion:
"Read this book and prepare to have your expectations blown and mind expanded."

I have this to say about fourfour's "Celine Dion is Amazing" video:
"Watch this video and prepare to have your expectations blown and mind expanded."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Power of Love

From the Toronto book launch on Wednesday. Despite a few audience chuckles at the beginning, this is quite beautiful.

Friday, January 11, 2008

bits and bobs

* Look out for the publication of David Smay's fantastic Tom Waits book - more next week

* Excerpts coming soon from the upcoming books (April) about Reign in Blood and Horses.

* News next week on two NYC readings by Carl Wilson, scheduled for Jan 22 and 23.

* Here's Carl and "Celine" at the Toronto launch the night before last:

(Celine being, in fact, Laura Landauer - photo by Chris Reed.)

* Outrageously, you can still request the first two chapters of Carl's book by sending a quick email to letstalkaboutceline at yahoo dot com

Thursday, January 10, 2008

20 Jazz Funk Greats

I'm very pleased to announce that Drew Daniel's excellent book about Throbbing Gristle in the series (no.54) is now on sale at Amazon and many many other places.

From the back cover:


"Just as the album cover flickers uncomfortably between extroverted, collective celebration and introverted, solitary withdrawal, the eleven songs bound by this image pinball unpredictably between group creativity and solo outbursts, between glossy pop and hastily scribbled improvisation, alternately firming songs up into solid structures and dissolving them down into a miasma of textures, moving backwards into pastiche and forward into futurism. Poised at the edge of the abyss, it's a record that can't make up its mind whether to jump or hold on."

Previous writings about Throbbing Gristle have tended to dissolve into lurid half-truths about deviance on and offstage; their actual recordings, lyrics and images have received comparatively slim analysis. Here, Drew Daniel creates an exploded view of this album's multiple agendas. On 20 Jazz Funk Greats, Throbbing Gristle modeled a critically new and highly promiscuous way of relating to or inhabiting musical genre - where punk rock was passionate and direct, TG were arch and mysterious, perverse and cold. Including original interviews with all the members of the band, this is a fascinating study of a highly unusual and enduringly influential group.

Drew Daniel is one half of the acclaimed electronic group Matmos. He teaches in the English Department at Johns Hopkins University, and lives in Baltimore.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Toronto Book Launch!

For those of you in and around Toronto, this coming Wednesday (the 9th) will see the launch of Carl Wilson's Celine book, which has been attracting all kinds of attention. All the details can be found here. Also, one of my favourite music blogs, Said the Gramophone, is featuring the book this week: well worth checking out.

Stay tuned for publication announcements this week about the Tom Waits and Throbbing Gristle books in the series, which should be arriving in stores any day now.