Thursday, February 10, 2011

Schultz' Earful: Nick Hornby; Ace Reporter; John Shannon

By: David Schultz

Since yanking back the curtain to expose the mere mortal behind the self-professed music connoisseur and transforming Top 5 lists into a more populist venture in his 1995 debut novel, High Fidelity, Nick Hornby has cemented his reputation as an astute commentator on man’s relationship with the music he loves. Returning to the topic in Juliet, Naked, his latest novel that’s now available in paperback, Hornby expands on the topic by bringing in the artist who is inextricable from the equation. Far from reaching the thorough microanalysis that David Foster Wallace brought to the topic in Infinite Jest, in Juliet, Naked, Hornby examines the interaction between obsessive music fans and the object of their obsession.

Hornby’s latest involves a reclusive rocker named Tucker Crowe whose earned his spot in the rock and roll pantheon by releasing one of the finest albums of all time, Juliet, an album borne of heartbreak inspired by a married woman who Crowe loved and lost. Adding to Crowe’s legendary status is his mysterious disappearance from the public eye, quitting in the midst of a tour and falling off the face of the earth after a visit to a bathroom in a CBGB-style punk club. With the Internet providing a forum for Crowe’s small but fervent fanbase to scrutinize the meaning of his every lyric, share and critique their armchair psychoanalysis into his unexplained withdrawal and disclose the results of their amateur sleuthing into his present whereabouts, his popularity amongst his fans refuses to wane.

In disclosing the truth behind Juliet and separating the fact from the fiction of Crowe’s actions with Lost-quality reveals, Hornby explores our desire to set rock stars on a pedestal. Suffused with the desire to find meaning where there very well may be none, we, as fans, simply create our own myths to supply answers to our questions. In Juliet, Naked, Hornby thoroughly exposes the flaws of believing you can truly know someone solely through their art. Can anyone know Bob Dylan through listening to his lyrics? It’s a battle that Dylan has fought for more than 40 years. Do we know anything about Britney Spears from the clips we see on TMZ? We may think we do, but in reality, we’re just making not-so-educated guesses based on little, though sensationalistic, information. Perhaps this is why Slash so often comes to Axl Rose’s defense; he knows Axl, we don’t.

Hornby addresses the point of view of an artist whose fans yearn for music from a bygone period of their life and the anger they harbor for those who appreciate art that they themselves no longer value. Kurt Cobain reached the point where he refused to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the song that brought Nirvana to worldwide attention and brought them the legions of fans he wouldn’t sing it for. Liz Phair probably has conflicted feelings about the people who buy tickets to her shows in the hopes she sings twenty year old songs about a period of her life she has long outgrown. Though Hornby presents the conundrum in an interesting context, he resolves the scenario with his customary sympathy for the music fan.

If you are the type of music fan that cares enough about music to have found a site like ours, you will find much to enjoy in Juliet, Naked.

FOR CLOSE TO 25 YEARS, They Might Be Giants flirted with the idea of writing a song a day, distributing them through their pre-Internet era Dial-A-Song service. If you called a number in Brooklyn, most days, you got to hear a brand new TMBG song. Bringing the concept into the 21st Century, Chris Snyder, formerly of The States, spent 2010 making the song-a-day dream a reality with Ace Reporter, his latest solo project. The efforts have spawned three solo EPs – Untouched and Arrived, Lean Honey Lean and Sleepyhead – which compile some of the best of the yearlong effort. On February 17, Snyder takes the next step and will offer up his first Ace Reporter show at the Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg, New York.

You can download the 3 EPs gratis by clicking here.

ANOTHER WILLIAMSBURG TREAT can be found at Pete’s Candy Store where John Shannon & The Wings of Sound will be taking up residency each Thursday night throughout February. Pete’s intimate concert space makes a perfect locale for Shannon’s dreamy peaceful reveries. The chatter of the outside bar area can’t dissipate the mood created by Shannon’s lilting guitar rolls, Garth Stevenson’s plucked bass and Dan Brantigan’s doleful horn. Fans of Deer Tick and The Low Anthem will have lots to enjoy at the Candy Store this month.

1 comment:

Rinjo Njori! said...

Can you bring the book out next time you come out. More like-- next time I come out.

I got three children to send to college.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!