A few years ago I read Dave Haslam's book about Manchester, and it was superb - diving into the history of the city but focusing on the musical aspects, explaining why certain types of music were more popular in the city. I was hoping that this book would be similar, albeit bigger in scale, but it didn't quite meet my expectations.
Will Hodgkinson writes in a light and enjoyable style, almost chatty in fact, but whilst the book advertises itself as an exploration of music in Britain it doesn't really achieve this goal. Instead he seems to spend more time writing about the places he visits, how he gets there, the somewhat dilapidated car he drives, and also the "Zoom" portable recording studio he takes with him in a carrier bag. He concentrates on the folkier styles of music, and sadly he fails to draw any real conclusions apart from that a certain type of song is popular in a particular place because that's how it has always been. At one stage he visits Liverpool and concentrates on why Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart and Love are so popular there (answer: they all played concerts there) yet scarcely mentions the whole Merseybeat sound, then travels to Manchester (briefly) and concentrates on how the city itself has changed since his last visit, before decamping to the suburbs to listen to a band.
The overwhelming feeling I got from this book was that it was an extended thesis, almost every chapter the same length, as though they were written to read a particular word count, and that he didn't really draw any conclusions at all, and instead turned it into something of a travelogue where he could spend more time writing about his car's declining health.
There are, however, enjoyable sections, particularly the chapter set in Sheffield where he describes Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley's friendship, and from time to time I laughed out loud. It's a light, enjoyable read, but not the exploration of music I'd expected and looked forward to.