A sci-fi short story starring the Grateful Dead, a heartfelt homage to jazz giants Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk, a tall-tale about a ghostly Robert Johnson tune and 39 other bite-sized chunks of mostly tasty musical goodness.
Many of the finest music writers are a tad humorless. Robert Christgau, for example, can be massively cranky, while Peter Guralnick can be massively staid. So when a whimsical collection of music fiction and criticism comes along, it’s worth paying attention, if only because the funniest music scribe of all time, Lester Bangs, is, you know, dead. (This oddball stew has the savor of Bangs’s work, spiced with a smidgen of Nick Hornby and a pinch of Philip K. Dick.) A busy freelance journalist, Myers appears regularly on All Things Considered, and a number of the brief essays in his debut were previously heard on NPR. The longer “fables,” on the other hand, are new. In the most memorable of them, Adam Coil V travels 100 years through time “Back to the Fillmore” for a 1969 Grateful Dead gig; he parties with the Hell’s Angels, loses his virginity to a hippie chick called “Cinnamon Girl” and basks in the sounds of young Jerry Garcia. Playing Black Sabbath music unmasks human-seeming aliens in another goofy highlight, “Who Will Save the World?” While the book is aimed at rock-’n’-roll nuts, the most impressive straight journalism is jazz-oriented, specifically the aforementioned Blakey/Monk article and a fond tribute to saxophonist Albert Ayler. Analyses of Lou Reed, Frank Zappa and Doug Sahm are solid, if unspectacular journalistic pieces that pale when nestled beside the more vibrant and original fiction. Had Myers concentrated on storytelling, he might have crossed over to a wider audience. As it is, his book will be loved by music nerds but merely appreciated (at best) by casual music fans.
Periodically smashing, periodically pedestrian.