Monday, August 11, 2008

Book Review : 31 Songs - Nick Hornby*



I'm sure this book seemed like a good idea, get a famous author to wax lyrical about his favourite music. I'm sure Hornby is a fine author, he has certainly sold a lot of books.

My main problem with this is the our tastes in music seem to be poles apart, and worse than that, if Hornby doesn't appreciate a style of music then he tends to rubbish it. Thus hard rock and punk come in for a hammering all way through these collected mini-essays, hard rock because Hornby has grown up now and grown ups don't need all that noise, and punk because it's all irrelevant, and noisy.

Oh dear, so Hornby 'grew up' and stopped loving the music of his youth. Did he get into classical or jazz instead then ? No, he doesn't really get those forms of music either.

I would rather say that you can grow up musically and appreciate new things without having to leave your first loves behind. I listen to a lot of different styles of music now that I am older, classical, folk, country, pop, but that doesn't mean I have stopped listening to The Beatles, The Clash or Megadeth.

So in all the 31 Songs (and a clutch of albums) our tastes only coincided on Led Zeppelin's Heartbreaker and then The Beatles and Nick Cave, but in writing about Led Zep he gives hard rock such a pasting that it leaves me thinking that Hornby is a right pillock, and in the latter two he picks tracks and albums (Rain and No More Shall We Part) that I'm not keen on.

Should it matter that when reading a book about music that I the reader don't share the musical inclinations of the writer ? It shouldn't, but in praising the things he loves he gives such a hard time to the things that I love that I find myself disliking the man for his taste. I have often read articles, and reviews, of music that have made me want to go out and listen to that kind of music myself. A very well written two page article in the Independant a couple of years ago turned me on to Rachel Unthank And The Winterset, a breathy lightweight style of modern folk unlike anything else I listen to, but the writer made it sound like aural angel cake without pointing out that I usually fill my ears with stew and dumplings.

The reviewer from the Spectator said about 31 Songs "Well written and wholly lacking in pretension", I disagree, yes it is well written and Hornby has a deft and tender touch when describing the life of his autistic son, but, pretentious moi ? Hornby is so far up himself when writing about the music he loves that only the soles of his sensible shoes can be seen poking out of his backside.

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