Book review: Detours

DetoursDetours by Tim Rogers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Five stars. I suppose it’s unlikely I would have rated any other way, really, given how much of my early adulthood was soundtracked by the guy. See, for nerdy dorks of my age and type, Tim Rogers’ work is pretty important. I’ve written about that here if you’d fancy further solipsism – but suffice it to say You Am I were (and are) a band that made you feel like you could give it a go, and that there was stuff and a place out there for you, too.

Yeah, there are big rock moves, and big rock appetites. But then behind it all was someone who wrote songs about OCD, who felt an impostor, and who used Townshend windmills to blur reality, just a bit.

What Tim’s produced here is a wordy, worthy work that, while it does have enough rock to be going on with, focuses more on the introspective, ritual, sad side of things. There’s enough books on blow and blowjobs, and while at least one of those features here, Rogers is smart enough to know that there’s no point trying to rewrite Hammer of the Gods or The Dirt. Instead, we have this: a flâneur’s fiddlings; a ragamuffin’s recitations. Suitable, given his sartorial choices.

With fedoras worn at rakish angles and jewellery a must, I looked like an oafish Quentin Crisp.

Detours appeals precisely because of its reluctance to be a ‘proper’ bio. As the title suggests, this is a collection of wanderings: through cities, through memory, through perspective. There’s a couple of chapters headed BAGATELLES which offer snippets of anecdotes, sort of amuses-bouche featuring Don Walker and nobodies. They’re like a Whitman’s Sampler of experience, something that makes sense when you consider the bower-bird of the author’s tastes.

Here, you won’t get a dry list of recording dates, you won’t get studio banter. But you will get a portrait that augurs with the one you may have gleaned from some songs you’ve most likely heard.

(Would someone unfamiliar with the guy’s output read this book? I wonder.)

It’s strange: the book feels a lot more personal than other autobiographies I’ve read. Almost too much so, in some places – we’re given a view of stuff that’s obviously painful, and I wonder how much of the book was written as a way to lock away, to cage events and habits that’ve loomed in his life. It’s pretty brave writing: it would undoubtedly be easier to bang out a memoir about rockin’ every fuckin’ night. (I mean hell, we know Gene Simmons isn’t going to be giving out any free rides to the Town of Introspection any time soon.) But here we are. After all,

I realised that years of impropriety have left me as open as a newspaper on the street in the rain. There is no point in trying to hide my foibles or fuck-ups, as they’ve given me so much source material for songs.

The drug and alcohol stuff is brutally honest – deciding to tell the great unwashed about the time you picked up your kid fucked out of your head has to be difficult – but it’s stuff like this that hits hard. The consumption’s not played up as Rainbow Room hi-jinks, which is kind of the point, I guess: Tim’s just trying to get through this shit, like all of us. And sometimes it’s hard to read, but the sense is – even when hogtied by bald-faced fear – that the author’s continuing onwards and upwards. And fuck, as a sidelines observer for decades, that’s deep-down good to hear.

There’s a lot of love in this book, a necessary opponent to the self-loathing and anxiety that swims in the sclera of the thing. His partner, The Hurricane, sounds a necessary, irresistible tonic. The man’s desire to be a good dad is palpable, the fuel that runs him, and his regard and love for bandmates past and present – both Box the Jesuit’s Goose and current brother-in-arms Davey Lane receive effusive praise – is on ready display. When he’s writing about someone he loves, Rogers is at his most disarming: there’s no artifice, just a desire to communicate how fuckin’ great he thinks these people are.

The other big love that guides a lot of the writing here is sport. Memories of Kalgoorlie kicks, reminders of the importance of the tennis ball and the scoop bat, descriptions of a rag-tag assemblage of blokes with fucked knees giving it a go for the sheer release, or of the nerve-soothing salve that is cricket commentary – they’re discussed at length. I’m not a sporty kind of guy, either in traditional or Graney modes, but I enjoyed it in a manner similar to hearing Murakami talk about running.

It’s definitely interesting to have read this after Tex Perkins’ autobiography, as the two authors have a very different approach. Tex’s book is self-aware, true, but there’s always a sense of confidence, of ability there. Detours is testament to the fact that behind the appearance of success there can be the Child Catcher-like figure of self-doubt, of self-loathing, of ritualised behaviour designed to tamp down the anxiety of just existing. Both Perkins and Rogers are loved artists, and great storytellers – but I reckon more schlubs like me feel the drivers of Detours than they do the assuredness of Tex.

Enough rambling. If you’ve ever liked You Am I, or Rogers’ other work, this is the book for you. I fuckin’ loved it. It was as loud and effete and brash and sad and beautiful as I’d hoped.

(And was quietly relieved he didn’t mention that dick that kept turning up to shows and calling out for them to play ‘Shame’ in 94-97. Sorry ’bout that, Tim.)

GBTFLOU, folks.

(Some ephemera which will aid the reader with this work: there is a lengthy, lovely discussion between Tim and writer Andrew McMillen available at McMillen’s Penmanship Podcast, and some beaut photographs of his apartment available here. Both are worth a gander.)

My Goodreads profile is here.

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