Heaven knows I’m autobiographical now

25 01 2014

Autobiography by Morrissey 

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The most ridiculous blurb for this one:

Steven Patrick Morrissey was born in Manchester on May 22nd 1959. Singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Smiths (1982-1987), Morrissey has been a solo artist for twenty-six years, during which time he has had three number 1 albums in England in three different decades.

Achieving eleven Top 10 albums (plus nine with the Smiths), his songs have been recorded by David Bowie, Nancy Sinatra, Marianne Faithfull, Chrissie Hynde, Thelma Houston, My Chemical Romance and Christy Moore, amongst others.

An animal protectionist, in 2006 Morrissey was voted the second greatest living British icon by viewers of the BBC, losing out to Sir David Attenborough. In 2007 Morrissey was voted the greatest northern male, past or present, in a nationwide newspaper poll. In 2012, Morrissey was awarded the Keys to the City of Tel-Aviv.

It has been said ‘Most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status that Morrissey has reached in his lifetime.’

Oh dear.

Autobiography covers Morrissey’s life from his birth until the present day.

I must admit I approached this with real trepidation, almost as fearful as if I actually had to meet the great man. Most of my anxieties were indeed well-founded.

So, four chunks to this book really. An extended reminiscence of an absurdly Dickensian-sounding childhood – well-crafted but surely over-egged. Sadly dull descriptions of the early days of the Smiths followed by ranting at Rough Trade ineptitude. Then there is the barrack-room lawyering and the railing against the system. And finally we have the just rewards – the recent years of solo adoration which turns into just a bit of a tour list.

But basically everything is everyone else’s fault. It’s all a bit reminiscent of what could be regarded as a companion piece – Mark E Smith’s contribution to the autobiography genre.

In the acknowledgements for the book (unsurprisingly there are only a few) he adds: “whatever is sung is the case”. On balance I suspect it would have been better if he had let the songs speak for themselves. Whilst not exactly miserable, I’m not much happier now.

2 star





The rules

18 01 2014

The 10 Rules of Rock and Roll by Robert Forster

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In his first book, The 10 Rules of Rock and Roll, Australian singer-songwriter Robert Forster takes readers on an idiosyncratic journey through the past and present of popular music – from Bob Dylan to Cat Power, from AC/DC to Nana Mouskouri, from The Saints to Franz Ferdinand. With 30 years experience as a recording artist/performer and an undimmed love of popular music, Forster’s observations about his fellow artists balance the enthusiasm of a fan with an insider’s authority. He is that rare thing: a musician who can write about music, and he brings to this collection of critical essays the erudition, wit and craft of his songwriting.

In this collection of essays by one of the creative engines of the absurdly under-rated Australian band, the Go-Betweens, Robert Forster has delivered a terrific commentary on music past and present. Perhaps surprisingly he demonstrates three things: first, he can really write, secondly, he has great taste,and thirdly his insider knowledge delivers a set of genuine insights into music and its creators.

four stars





Devilish fun

11 01 2014

When the Devil Drives by Christopher Brookmyre

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Is the devil merely the name we give the worst in ourselves? Or is there an evil in this world older than society, a force that corrupts men and feeds off their sins?

This is not a question that has ever much concerned private investigator Jasmine Sharp, but that changes when she is hired to find Tessa Garrion, a young woman who turns out to be not merely long lost, but vanished without trace. It becomes increasingly clear that there are some who want her to stay that way.

What begins as a simple search awakens a malevolence that has lain dormant for three decades, placing Jasmine in the crosshairs of those who’ll stop at nothing to keep their secrets buried. As she uncovers a hidden history of sex, drugs, ritualism and murder, which links the well-appointed salons of Glasgow’s high society to the lowest depths of the underworld, Jasmine realises she may need a little help from the dark side herself if she’s going to get to the truth.

All good far-fetched fun and a classic Brookmyre yarn.

3 star





Honourable games

4 01 2014

The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre 

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George Smiley has become acting Chief of the Circus, or rather what remains of it. For the credibility of the British Secret Service has been shattered by his unmasking of a traitor within. It is being starved of funds by Whitehall, and sidelined by its American cousins. Smiley’s appointment, therefore, seems more like retribution than promotion.

Yet from the first he goes onto the attack. His adversary is Karla, workname of the Soviet case officer who masterminded the Circus’s ruin. His battleground is Hong Kong, and his choice of weapons is the Honourable Gerald Westerby, Eastern hand and Fleet Street hack.

Westerby’s odyssey takes him to collapsing Cambodia and Vietnam, to the insurgency area of North East Thailand and finally to the southernmost tip of the Hong Kong archipelago, to the very edge of the China Sea. His belated coming of age, his bounding humanity striving to get out, his courage and his recognition of love, are set in mounting dramatic contrast to the ever-growing needs of the service that claims his allegiance.

It’s a fairly compelling yarn but perhaps a little long-winded. Still, there’s very little not to like and the tension and pace are excellent in places.

stars-3-5








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