on 23 August 2015
here's a man who knows what he's talking about, and with a winning way of putting it across! this is a thoroughly entertaining book concerning itself with an issue that affects us all - the box of cassettes, and how to love them again! i have such a box, but currently, not the means to play them, so neil pace can listen to them for all of us, and did so, one a day for 130 days. a great concept, and in his case, quite a brave one as many of the tapes chosen for the experiment are not the best known or most commercial releases of the artists concerned, but you can feel the love and knowledge he possesses as he gives us a brief review of each, usually preceded with a short piece on how the recording in question links into his life.
we don't share (much of) the same taste, but when these collided on occasion - the mighty kraftwerk, dexy's, etc, his assessments are spot on, and i have to admire his championing of albums that i would deem as pure dross - i'm not going to name them! he makes a few threats to write a history on 80's electronic music, and given his entertaining style and indisputable zeal for the subject, this might not be a bad idea!
my little side project when reading was to count how many cassettes we had both acquired, and although i had a good number of the recordings in different formats, the number was 3. de la soul, bjork and..............................fashion!
however, good reading!
The author of this book, Neil Pace, put out an earlier draft of the first portion of it with the sub-title "The First 40 Days" - the reasons for that title will become clear as you continue reading. I bought it, enjoyed it and submitted an Amazon review which I reproduce below( in the next eight paragraphs). We now have the fully blown results of the great experiment complete with a sparkling new introduction. Within which we get such nuggets as "By day 37 I was pondering life as a bit of a hellraiser", and, he also reveals his favourite album OF ALL TIME (my capitols - I thought they were justified). Read on though for my words on "The First 40 Days". They are just as applicable here.
"Many of us beyond a certain age will be aware of the "tapes in the loft" syndrome. Cassette tapes, often bought at knock down prices from racks at filling stations or market stalls, put away out of sight, possibly because of the visit of Aunty Vi or maybe just because they were cluttering up the sitting room / dining room / study (did we used to have such things?) or whatever. Never having the cultural cachet of their predecessors, 33 rpm LP's, nor the relative indestructibility of CD's, cassettes seemed to be doomed to relate to distant memories of pleasant car journeys and / or, those occasions when the tape managed to unravel itself and spew all over the place (maybe as a way of getting back at you for the shabby treatment you'd given it!).
So, such things got banished to the loft in one or more plastic bags or cardboard boxes, until the day of reckoning, when, due to some earth shaking event, like loft insulation or moving house, the question arose, what do we do with them now? A heck of a lot of us will have got rid of them at this juncture. Neil Pace however, is made of sterner stuff. He resolved to listen to his tapes and, on a daily basis, update his blog with a "review" of said tape. This process to run for a six month period in 2013. He has now published the results of the first forty days of this exercise.
The reason I've appended exclamation marks to the word review is that I'm not fully sure that Neil would be comfortable with it. He is at pains to say that his writing isn't music journalism. i would disagree. As I see it - and I'm strictly an amateur - music journalism including reviewing is whatever you want it to be. If that includes a relatively subjective view of the music under examination and/or thoughts, ideas or reflections triggered by such music, well, so be it. Listening to music is a subjective occupation, but, if you are able to convey your reactions to the experience in hard black & white to the extent that a reader might want to share that experience, well, good for you.
The bulk of the cassettes that Neil reviews are from the eighties which was the heyday of the cassette. As CD decks started to appear in cars and not just those of the more expensive variety, cassettes lost their appeal fairly rapidly. However Neil's selection also contains music from the seventies and the nineties. Much of the music present will be familiar to people who've been purchasers or even merely radio listeners in these time frames - Sparks, XTC, Depeche-Mode, David Bowie and others are virtually household names. At times Neil gets into more obscure territory with names such as Fischer-Z and Tyka Nelson. Martin Stephenson & the Daintees get in on the basis of local success stories (though Neil might argue that he bought the cassette purely on musical merit).
I have to confess that much of the music over the long period involved, with some exceptions, has passed me by. That's not meant to be any criticism, merely to comment that my attention has been elsewhere. In some respects this may have been advantageous: I was bringing less baggage to the table. The risk was that I'd get bored with someone wittering on about albums I'd never been interested in. That didn't happen. And have to say that Neil's enthusiasm, his ability to be positive about his subject without dropping into gushing inanities, and his habit of approaching his subject from unusual angles, have all helped me to keep the pages turning, figuratively, and, have added to that long list of artists and albums I should explore.
It's often fascinating to revisit some of one's own musical purchases, particularly those which one hasn't listened to for many years. Questions like what did I really see in this or even, what did I miss in this, will inevitably arise. Neil addresses these questions with disarming and self-deprecating humour, and regularly drops surprises on the reader.
I take my metaphorical hat off to Neil for the service he has performed and wish him luck on the next leg of the journey. To everyone else I'd say, if you have any interest at all in the music of the last forty years, buy this book. Even if you don't get turned on to any of the artists covered - which would surprise me - you will get a series of highly entertaining mini-essays."
Those were my words and nothing I've read in this marvellous book since then would cause me to change them. The only extra comment I'd add is that you might have thought you could predict much of Mr Pace's listening habits from the first book but I can assure you he still springs surprises.
on 10 April 2014
Smashing collection of witty essays dissecting a real cross section of music from the Eighties & early Nineties. Neil is a particular fan of electronic music, which isn't my bag at all, but his style of writing ensures there's something of interest in every chapter. So much so I think there are several albums here I'm going to have to hear for myself. It's a great book to dip in and out of whilst travelling and has, on more than one occasion, had me chuckling out loud on the tube.