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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 June 2012
Many years ago I was sat in my room watching TV one Christmas break. I happened to turn over to BBC2 and saw the most riveting concert ever. There was a big suited front-man, icy cool female bassist and an ensemble that made funky alternative music. I had never heard anything like it before. Stop Making Sense started my love affair with Talking Heads. I was too young to ever see them live so it was an absolute thrill.

Ok, did I bore you there? I hope not but entirely understand if I did because that's what this book is like. Well actually its far more densely written than that. Taking twenty words to say what five could. This book is not a story of the making of the rather superb Fear of Music album. Rather it is the authors love affair with that album and relating his boy in the bedroom experiences (as I did above) throughout. Each song is de-constructed chapter at a time. Interspersed with the odd chapter examining the piece as a whole (samples are 'Is Fear of Music a David Byrne Album?', 'Is Fear of Music an Asperger's record?' or 'Is Fear of Music a New York Album?'). There is no research into the making of the record really. No illuminating insights into the process. Just a 140 page essay on the albums effect and impact on the listener. Written in such a way that I found incredibly difficult to keep reading at times (I put the book down regularly as the writing was to dense). An example would be the opening to the Paper chapter (that obviously concerns itself with the song of the same name). It goes thus... 'Confronting the first of the tangible nouns, the band renews their commitment to guitars, which abruptly in command, seem delighted to have rehabilitated themselves from the daffy slackness of "mind".'
Did you follow that? I didn't pick that instance on purpose it was a random opening to a chapter.
So, I didn't enjoy the author being the main character of the piece, the prose or the fact that its just a very long essay on the book. I did enjoy the fact that it made me what to listen to it again. It does give you a feel of the genuine love of the album. It works in that regard.

So, in conclusion. If you want an in depth look at the album track by track by a celebrated author that sheds no light on the music that hasn't already been shed then this is for you. You will want to listen to the music again and you will feel the love the band emoted in this individual and possibly yourself. However, if you want something that tells the story of the albums genesis, construction and legacy then you need to look elsewhere.
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on 1 November 2013
I was surprised to see so many negative reviews of this book. What's not to like? At one point Lethem remarks that his identification with Fear of Music as a teenager was so strong that you could have placed the album where his head was and it would have adequately represented his inner self. If you haven't ever felt that way about an album, book, or movie, this isn't a book you should read. Lethem isn't doing standard music criticism or cultural analysis--thank God, who needs more of that?--he's exploring the strange liminal zone between his own psyche and a rock album that got so deep under his skin (like Byrne's air) that it had a hand in forming it (his psyche).

But then, some people don't know s*** about the air.

For Lethem writing this book, everything seems to be up in the air. That's the point. Lethem can't tell where Fear of Music ends and he begins, or vice versa, and the reader isn't supposed to know either. And it comes directly from his heart to you. What Lethem can do as well as any music writer I've ever read, however (as he also showed in his novel You Don't Love Me Yet), is describe musical progressions and effects in coherent language that somehow captures the essence of music and meaning, that merges forms, creates prose that sings the praises of songs that narrate, so the music and the analysis get together, load their trucks, burn their notebooks, and change their hairstyles. This is one of those abilities that mystifies and humbles me: I don't know how Lethem does it. I can only absorb it admiringly and, as with great music, enjoy its ineffability and my own incapacity to understand how he does it. Ironic, because Lethem's Fear of Music is kind of about that: Lethem's still-adolescent fumbling, joyful, jerky, melancholy, intense, searching, desperate, weary and inspired attempt to come to terms with his inability to understand Fear of Music and, at the same time, his inability not to at least TRY. Maybe that's why some people didn't like it? Too naked, too honest, too raw--like Fear of Music the album, Fear of Music the book offers no comfort or solace besides the comfort and solace of forgoing comfort and solace: "I ain't got time for that now."

Fear of Music has been my favorite album for thirty years. My favorite song was Heaven, which is about a bar where they play your favorite song, all night long. (How's that for an infinity loop?) I had never read anything else by Lethem before I read his little book. It did not disappoint, which in itself is about as likely as a party where everyone leaves at exactly the same time. Lethem writes like a building on fire, like he's flat on his back, with no regrets, like he's a little freaked out, like he's charged up, like he's got it figured out, like he doesn't know what he's talking about, like there's a party in his mind, like he's inside a dry ice factory.

It's a good place. He gets his thinking done.

This is the book I read.
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on 8 February 2016
amazing album, very good book
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on 9 April 2013
Takes us on a trip to the school-boys fans past - interweaving with unexpected fact. Niucely written. Posing questions.. is it a NY album, an Eno album etc
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on 5 May 2013
a great book for anyone who has ever liked or enjoyed David Byrne's music with or without the Talking Heads
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on 6 September 2014
pure nostalgia
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