A hard-rocking band that started as a joke ends its run at stardom during a long, bad day in Amsterdam.
In his debut novel, Shilling paints a portrait of an imploding band on tour. The book somehow manages to be simultaneously bleak and archly funny. The fictional group, Blood Orphans, was once the next big thing, cooked up over tequila by drummer Darlo Cox and the book’s standout character, punk fashionista and band manager Joey Fredericks, “a foul-mouthed fox who could snort coke like an aardvark.” Custom designed to send up hair metal, the boys had it all: a contract with Warner Bros., a gig opening for Aerosmith and fans devoted to their riotous concerts. But after Spin magazine labels the band’s song “Double Mocha Lattay” unforgivably racist, the bottom quickly falls out. In the middle of their European tour, Joey gets word from the label that the band is being dropped. With rich characterizations and surprisingly complex back stories, the author gets under the skin of his ragtag brotherhood. There’s Bobby, the bass guitarist with a case of eczema; sex fiend Darlo, whose damage originates from his porn-manufacturing parents; Adam, the talented guitarist who’s far too nice a guy for the debauchery the gig requires; and singer Shane, a self-centered Christian rocker faking his way through Buddhism. Shilling nails the age of A&R excess that existed before iTunes killed the record store and bands gave away albums for free, offering up a biting indictment of celebrity adulation and the Commitments-like heartbreak of the whimpering end of an era. The dismal grind of the road, the backbiting among bandmates and the pitfalls of artificial success should be recognizable to former guitar heroes everywhere.
A thoughtful snapshot of a crumbling rock ’n’ roll fantasy.