Book review: Shots

ShotsShots by Don Walker.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Laconic and dry. That’s probably the write-up you’ve got in mind for Shots, songwriter Don Walker’s first book. And you’re probably not all that far wrong. But that reductionism is a disservice: The book is dry, with one economical eye on the door, but there’s a lot more going on.

The book is an autobiography, more or less, but it’s not a lot like that of his on-again off-again bandmate Tex Perkins, say. It’s a collection of images gathered together under the names of places that exist, or are a state of mind – Home, Carr’s Creek, Kings Cross, The Road, Paris and so on – but they flit, moment to moment. (more…)

Book review: Girl in a Band: A Memoir

Girl in a Band: A MemoirGirl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title of Kim Gordon’s autobiography is a neat reduction of how she’s been interpreted by media outlets and observers for years: the girl in the most apparently sausagefesty of bands, the fringe-and-pedals, truculent beast that was Sonic Youth. It is, naturally, reductive, a fiction pushed by those who’d copy to file, or those whose musical penates was the Kim and Thurston power couple.

The quote on the back of the book – pulled from its instant-in first chapter – best describes the artist’s feelings of being observed, categorised.

Onstage, people have told me, I’m opaque or mysterious or enigmatic or even cold. But more than any of those things, I’m extremely shy and sensitive, as if I can feel all the emotions swirling around a room. And believe me when I say that once you push past my persona, there aren’t any defenses there at all.

Of course, I’m guilty of this reduction. I like to defend this with the acknowledgement that Sonic Youth are a band I seem to ‘get’ more now that I’m older: I had some albums when I was growing up, but I always seemed to miss something, that there was a big secret that I couldn’t understand, an enjoyment others had that I couldn’t grasp. I couldn’t get a read on Gordon: she seemed like she took no shit, from my limited pre-internet knowledge, and that probably frightened me, as teenage-terrible as I was parsing women. (more…)

Review: Sun Music: Journeys And Reflections From A Composer’s Life

Sun Music: Journeys And Reflections From A Composer's LifeSun Music: Journeys And Reflections From A Composer’s Life by Peter Sculthorpe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d owned this book for a while but it took Sculthorpe’s recent death to spur me towards it. It was always my intention to read it, but I suppose now is as fitting a time as any, given the amount of obituaries and memorials which have been printed of late.

The work is interesting, though the product of later-life reflection rather than at-the-time recollection. It definitely helps to be aware of musical form and conventions, and reading stave better than I do would bring more enjoyment from the musical excerpts printed throughout the text. It’s pleasingly broken into sections detailing either parts of Sculthorpe’s life (youth, schooling) or musical development (Bali, Japan, Kakadu) and it’s the latter which prove most interesting. The development of Sculthorpe’s language, especially in early years is interesting, as is his move to synthesise Australian and Asian ideas and music into a music of this land.

He’s described somewhere as doing for Australia what Copland did for parts of the US, something not too far from the mark, I think. But I must admit (more…)