October 28, 2011
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Geoff Hyatt's Birch Hills at World's End is a dark and moving coming of age novel that honestly captures the anxieties of both the high school years and the America of the late 90s.
Most characters of Birch Hills at World's End are plagued by a sense of impending doom as their youths, friendships, and millennium draw to a close—an anxiety they express through humor, escapism, and defiance. I cruised my music library and selected some songs I imagine might blast in the cars and bedrooms of the teenage protagonists, Josh and Erik, while others simply harmonize with the story itself.
"Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire
There are many great covers of this song, ranging from a bouncy, twee take by Bishop Allen to a compellingly incomprehensible version by the Pogues. I chose the original because McGuire's rough voice and urgent anger still feels timely, despite the Vietnam-era events described. "Eve of Destruction" is an indictment of hypocrisy and a warning of the havoc it creates. In the context of the novel, it's also something I imagine Erik's dad listens to in his living room, half-crocked on scotch in the middle of the night, wondering where his wife might be how exactly he ended up living in a gated community's mansion.
"Dawn of a New Age" by Satyricon
From the first roared line, "This is Armageddon," everything about Satyricon's "Dawn of a New Age" is both overwhelmingly ferocious and eerily cold. (The sound of a sword unsheathing around the two-and-a-half-minute mark still gives me chills.) This sort of sonic Ragnarok is much beloved by grim legions of teenagers in unpleasant climates, an affinity they'll often carry for their entire lives. I once talked to this band's vocalist, Satyr, for about ten minutes. I don't think he understood a single word I said. He just kept nodding and asking in his thick Norwegian accent if I'd come see them again in the fall. Maybe he just wanted me to go away.
"The Bite" by Comus
Some people think Comus sounds like the dark shadow of our pagan past spilling across the hippie zeitgeist of the 1960s, while others think they sound like Jethro Tull as performed by evil cartoon bunnies. Both are positive evaluations to me. The lure of the woods and lawlessness of nature pops up quite a bit in Birch Hills at World's End, and this track encompasses both. This album always makes me want to watch The Wicker Man, the good version with Christopher Lee's eyebrows in it.
"Methamphetamine" by EyeHateGod
Few bands sound as wrecked as EyeHateGod, and "Methamphetamine" embodies the pummeling threat boiling beneath the surface of the drug-related activities Josh and Erik encounter in the novel.
"The Way I Am" by Eminem
The entire Marshall Mathers LP is the best existing document of the American cultural and mass media preoccupations of 1999-2000. Lyrically, it's a massively entertaining, brilliantly executed, deeply mean-spirited work. The songs are merciless in the way they jab into the sore spots of both victims and victimizers alike. "The Way I Am" is one of the few songs contemporary to the Columbine tragedy to put the scapegoating on blast: ". . . . you won't just put up with the bullshit they pull / ‘Cause they full of shit too / When a dude's gettin' bullied and shoots up your school /And they blame it on Marilyn - and the heroin / Where were the parents at? / And look at where it's at: Middle America / Now it's a tragedy. . . ." I remember when everyone I knew had a burned copy of this CD in their car.
"Tractor" by Monster Magnet
"I got a knife in my back / I got a hole in my arm / I'm riding a tractor on a drug farm." Monster Magnet burst out of the gate dealing mind-warping rock excess, and this fuzzed-out track shows the band with its tongue firmly in cheek before they fully committed to over-the-top self-parody with the album Powertrip. A good song for the rural party spot in the book known only as "The Farm," where everything is a good time until it suddenly isn't.
"Why Be Something That You're Not" by Negative Approach
No explanation needed.
Geoff Hyatt and Birch Hills at World's End links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists
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