In a sort of literary “This is Spinal Tap”, this is a (mostly) gentle parody of a small town music scene of the 80s. Memorial Device is a post-punk band in small town Scotland, a scene where everyone is working class and no one gets famous except in the local area. Told in typical music bio form, the story unfolds though 26 interviews with various band members, friends, family, and hangers on. I’ve read a fair number of books about musicians and music scenes, and this oddly structured novel is spot on in tone and form. I had a hard time following who was who for a while, but Appendix C lists every character and tells who they were. Yes, the novel has four appendices, one of which is a thorough index (the other two are a discography and a list of the bands in post punk Airdrie). The book has a subtitle that’s damn near a chapter in itself: “An Hallucinated Oral History of the Post-Punk Scene in Airdrie, Coatbridge, and Envirions, 1978-1986” - that pretty much tells you what the book is about.
There is pretty much no plot, but the characters drag you in- even when you know they will come to a sad end. They are pretty typical of rock memoirs; hard drinking party animals who have myriad sexual adventures and are trying to become punk rock stars in the vein of Iggy Pop. But the band members are committed; they aren’t just in it for the chicks, so to speak. It’s not just parody- and it’s not laugh out loud funny, more OMG I recognize that character funny- it’s also coming of age for the teen fans. It’s not the easiest book to read; the format is choppy and a character’s story may unfold through a number of chapters by people, at various places in the book. It very much captures the feel of fanzines from the era. I very much enjoyed it! Four stars.
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