More reviews of 33 1/3 books! Yay. (Now I just need them to send me the new Talking Heads book and an advance of the Exile On Guyville one and I will be halfway to a third entry in this series! Please, 33 1/3? I LOVE YOU GUYS A LOT OKAY. One, your books are awesome, and two, they are the perfect camera bag size, which matters to a photographer.)
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back — Christopher Weingarten. Read this on top of Last Night A DJ Saved My Life and Love Goes To Buildings On Fire, and reveled in how brilliant and perceptive and iconic this album was; how much hip-hop and rap and DJs and salsa and funk shaped rock and roll in this country as anything else did; how human and fascinating all the members of Public Enemy are. Felt a little heartbroken that I skipped their set at Hopscotch two years ago. Weingarten knocked this one out of the park: it’s not just a testament to the triumph of this album, it’s one to the triumph of the DJ and hip-hop scene in New York.
Trout Mask Replica — Kevin Courrier. Fascinating — I spent the winter really obsessed with Captain Beefheart, and this gave me both sonic insight into the album (I love it but I don’t get it) and some really interesting insight into Don Van Vliet himself. He was something else, it seems; Courrier made me believe that no one but Van Vliet could have made the Captain Beefheart albums, which technically probably isn’t true but emotionally feels really honest. Also piqued a great deal of curiosity in Frank Zappa. A great one.
Doolittle — Ben Sisario. Since Kim Deal declined to speak to him, this book is basically Sisario driving around the American West with Charles Thompson (aka Frank Black) in Thompson’s big old vintage car. It’s actually a seamless portrait of Thompson as kind of an American anti-hero, someone completely alien, and the Pixies as the American anti-hero band, a band completely alien, all the while both of them had a streak of conformity mixed with their strange twitches and hitches. It answers questions, it raises more, and frankly, it kind of completely made me want to hang out with Frank Black. That’s what these books are supposed to do, right? I want to hang out with Chuck D, too.
Let It Be — Colin Meloy. I didn’t find this one as great as I wanted to. I love the ‘Mats, I love that album, and I love Colin Meloy: three great tastes that taste great together! And I found it interesting as a Meloy memoir, of a history of his own listening, and certainly the ‘Mats and that record played a part, but after a handful that were such strong histories of the records themselves, and a bit of disappointment in my winter reading of All Over But The Shouting, I kind of wanted more about the band and the record itself. I mean, hell, I’d read a whole book about the photographer who took the cover photo. All in all, an entertaining read, but there are stronger entries in the canon and better books about the Replacements (although probably not about Meloy’s youth; it was a great memoir of Colin Meloy).
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea — Kim Cooper. Heartbreaking, honest, a little guarded: this was the literary equivalent of the Neutral Milk Hotel record and thus, the perfect book to take it on. Loved the section on how Mangum landed in the Athens scene that made the record possible, loved all the stories of how much it means to people (I didn’t see Mangum at Memorial Hall this year, but those I know who went … yeah), loved the whole thing. Loved the way she handled Mangum’s retreat into silence after the record, particularly. A deft and generous and kind book about a life-changing album.