Another episode of Hugs and Kisses, a weekly Sound of the City column from Everett True, author of Nirvana: The Biography (da Capo Press) and publisher of Plan B Magazine. Last week, he informed us about Michael Dracula, a woman living in Scotland making heavy-lidded cabaret. This week, he writes about musicians’ memoirs in which he is specifically mentioned, namely Dean Wareham’s Black Postcards and Laurie Lindeen’s Petal Pusher. Find out how you can send him review copies of memoirs in which he is not mentioned by clicking firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week: Indie-rock lit
I’ve been reading.
Usually, I favour Jean Rhys or Mark Twain or Walter Moseley or William Saroyan (or, of course, Richard Brautigan) but just lately some old musician friends have taken it upon themselves to document their past careers and it seemed only just that I, as someone formerly paid to document same, should have a peek. First came Scarce bassist Joyce Raskin’s raw and painful exorcism Aching To Be, brief and brutally frank—her band’s career in a microcosm. That impressed me; so when a former Seattle intern emailed me to let me know she’d been reading about me in another former acquaintance’s memoirs (Zuzu’s Petals singer Laurie Lindeen’s ‘Rock And Roll Cinderella Story’ Petal Pusher—I feature as a dorky, over-enthusiastic journalist fan with greying temples and an 18-year-old Courtney Love look-alike girlfriend) I thought I should check it out. Hey! Maybe musicians do have some brains after all.
First, though, Dean Wareham (formerly of Galaxie 500 and cult NYC band Luna) contacted me to ask if I’d like an advance copy of his book, Black Postcards (‘Unreleased B-sides and Notes From The Road’)—and seeing as how I make an entry there as a friendly critic who carries his slippers everywhere he goes (including an illicit train ride), I thought it couldn’t hurt. How wrong I was! Damn, Dean’s book is depressing. Damn, it made me feel so crap inside and for him and for every indie band-on-the-verge-of-breaking-big-but-never-quite-making-it-big and his band-mates and girlfriends and kid and music. There’s a sequence in the book where Dean meticulously lists every last overspent moment wasted away at Pachyderm Studios (famously, where Nirvana recorded In Utero with Steve Albini; coincidentally where Zuzu’s Petals recorded their second, ill-fated album The Music Of Your Life), including a guitar solo that costs $10,000 to record and fucking around with toy drums and playing Scrabble, instead of, um, recording. Don’t get me wrong—I love Dean, both as a person and a musician—but reading that, I’m like, “Dude. Stop right there. You’ve just nailed exactly why Luna—fine as they could be—could never hope to approximate Galaxie 500’s instinctual magic.” (Plus, they never recorded with Kramer.)
Elsewhere, the book’s plain weird: the first quarter reads like an extended apology to his former bandmates in Galaxie 500, Damon and Naomi, for not offering a reason why he left the band. The first two Luna albums are dismissed in as many lines. Wareham details sordid events—premature ejaculation with a prostitute in Europe—best left un-detailed, and delights in documenting the humdrum of touring. He is pretty fucking harsh on himself when it comes to his divorce. He is pretty fucking harsh on himself, full stop. Often, you’re like, “Dean! Quit it! If you don’t like the way you’re behaving, don’t behave like it! You’re a sensitive, intelligent person—get over it.” Yet, despite—or perhaps because of—all that, Black Postcards is a riveting, chilling read: a cautionary tale for anyone thinking of starting an old-school indie rock band, shot through with regret, desire and longing. There. That’s my pull quote for the dust jacket. Can I go now?
Lindeen’s Petal Pusher is way more upbeat—especially once you get past the startling revelation that Lindeen has multiple sclerosis, something she never revealed at the time—and yet still weirdly self-loathing in places (especially when it comes to the second album). It’s written brilliantly. Don’t doubt that for one moment. Lindeen has a Masters in Creative Writing—and it shows, the way she so fluently brings her upbringing and parents’ divorce and famous boyfriend/husband into the story, her droll way round an anecdote. Zuzu’s Petals never vaguely made it big—their debut album When No One’s Looking sold 28,000 copies, a lot for a classical artist, but not so much in the euphoric post-Nevermind indie rock world—and sometimes you get the impression (not entirely shaken by reading this book) that the Minneapolis band got as far as they did through their tremendous networking skills (something Lindeen disingenuously refers to in passing), force of personality and cheek alone. Hell, that still means they had more going for them than 98% of bands (I’m still smarting from being outed as a dork, can’t you tell?!)…and that ‘Johanne’ song of Lindeen’s really was something special.
On reflection, their main failing seemed to be the fact they were an all-female trio from Minneapolis who didn’t sound like Babes In Toyland. Not really a failing when you think on it, but sadly yes, the music industry really can be that shallow. Petal Pusher is a terrific piece of writing, nonetheless: and it also contains one of the most acerbic, brilliantly cruel pieces of local music criticism (a review of Zuzu’s Petals’ second album in City Pages) that it’s been my horrified delight to read.
Everett’s current favourite listens
1. Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd Street Band, “Express Yourself II” (taken from the Rhino album You’re So Beautiful) A revelation for me: the sweetness and fire of Otis Redding’s Muscle Shoals sessions matched to the sass and grind of early Sly.
2. The Long Blondes, “Too Clever By Half” (from the forthcoming Rough Trade album Couples). The exact point where the former Pulp acolytes (still brilliant) turn into shimmering Blondie (‘Atomic’-era) pop stars (absolutely brilliant).
3. Amy Winehouse, “Me And Mr Jones” (from Back To Black). “What kind of fuckery is this/You made me miss the Slick Rick gig.” Um, I’ve never even heard Slick Rick but somehow this sentence says it all.
4. Snöleoparden, “Hodja Fra Pjort” (taken from the forthcoming Rump album Snöleoparden). From a record full of disarmingly hypnotic child-like patterns and rhythms made by a disarmingly talented dude living in Denmark. Dude’s got in a full-fledged kindergarten choir for this one.
5. Hotpants Romance, “I Don’t Wanna” (from the Big Print album It’s A Heatwave). You seriously gotta love the Riot Grrrl fallout sometimes, especially when it veers into Gravy Train!!!-meets-Ramones fall-on screaming territory.