January 3, 2012
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Ryan Boudinot once again proves himself as one of America's most talented young writers with his second novel Blueprints of the Afterlife. Dark, funny, and smart, this post-apocalyptic dystopian book is as complex as it is original and entertaining.
The Baltimore City Paper wrote of the book:
"Blueprints is, above all, a rich book. Reading it is like devouring a sumptuous, exquisitely composed banquet in a foreign land: You may not know what half the stuff is made of, or what’s coming next, but the experience is unforgettable."
Most of Blueprints of the Afterlife takes place in a post-post-apocalyptic future, where it might be argued that a global meltdown of unfathomable magnitude utterly failed to improve anyone's music taste. While a number of music references in the book are really just references to bands, there are a few instances when a particular song intrudes into the story. One character, Luke Piper, lives through the late '80s and early '90s, and I found myself gravitating toward of the politics-driven punk and hip-hop music of that era.
Frank Zappa, "Peaches in Regalia"
Late in the novel, Al Skinner, a retired military contractor, crosses paths with two clones who live in an A-frame cabin in the woods. The cabin is crammed to the gills with random crap and billowing pot smoke. One of the clones' possessions is Frank Zappa's complete discography, which, I must say, would be quite a treasure. I was introduced to Zappa's music in high school by a friend, at debate camp, and I remember being awestruck by what Zappa could get away with singing about (Cath-o-lic giiiirrls). I think it's fair to say that most listeners who come to Zappa are initially beguiled by such lyrics as "Ram it, ram it, ram it, ram it up your poop chute," but end up returning to him for the musicianship, which really has no peer in rock, if we can even call what Zappa did "rock." I remember driving somewhere one night and hearing a Zappa cover of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" on the radio. What blew me away was that Page's guitar solo was performed by the horn section. Anyway, if you want to hear Zappa rip down the house, give a listen to his album Hot Rats, which opens with "Peaches in Regalia," a song of such ridiculous pomp that it sounds almost animated, or like a Jim Woodring cartoon transformed into music.
Michael Bolton, "When a Man Loves a Woman"
In the first section of the novel we meet championship dishwasher Woo-jin Kan. Woo-jin lives with his sister, Patsy, who grows tissues on her body that are then harvested by technicians who occasionally visit her in their trailer. Hattie, the woman in charge of these extraction sessions, attempts to put Patsy at ease by playing a video of Michael Bolton belting that old panty-wettener "When a Man Loves a Woman." Those of us who lived through the 1980s know the brute force of this song, the unstoppable, hormonal majesty of it.
Pink Floyd, "Another Brick in the Wall"
There's sort of an oblique reference to Pink Floyd somewhere in the book, I'm fairly certain. I'm a fan of Dark Side of the Moon mostly, with some respect for The Wall. I remember kids at summer camp scandalously chanting "We don't need no education." Later, I watched The Wall in a friend's rec room and found it totally intense, man.
Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, "Satantic Reverses"
I don't particularly care for this band, but I remember it typifying a kind of strident, politically-aggressive music that was moving under the radar during the years of grunge. Michael Franti later went on to some acclaim with the band Spearhead, which just isn't my thing. I remember listening to the first Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy album at my friend Eric's house. I wanted to get into it, wanted to broaden my lyrical horizons, but felt little passion for it. In the novel, this band's music shows up in the background of an intimate dinner party in early '90s San Francisco. Which brings me to…
Consolidated, "Friendly Fascism"
I think I first heard Consolidated the first week I was in college, and I hated them immediately. If Adbusters were a band instead of a magazine, they'd sound like Consolidated. Agenda-driven lyrics, boring music, food co-op rock for the 99%. This music shows up at the same dinner party in SF.
I've always had mixed feelings about REM, finding much of their music bland, with the exception of a few truly outstanding songs. This is one of them. While it's a cover song, it's the first song I think about when I think about the band. A teenage Luke Piper plays it in his VW van on his way home after a particularly memorable night with a girl. I wanted that moment to be triumphant, and this anthem of sexual potency seemed to be in order.
Minor Threat, "Straight Edge"
I guess I don't care for music that's overtly political if the music itself is boring. For instance, Rage Against the Machine would be unbearable to me if it weren't for all the interesting things Tom Morello makes his guitar do. And while Minor Threat and later Fugazi were politically-minded, I never felt, listening to them, that I was being lectured to. I'm a bigger Fugazi fan than a Minor Threat fan, but I've always loved Ian MacKaye's voice, the sort of dopey bluntness of it. There's a difference between writing a bunch of songs about certain issues, ala Consolidated, and writing from the position of a particular ethos, like Minor Threat and Fugazi did. Minor Threat's "Straight Edge" is an anthem that established a kind of punk rock puritanism whose adherents eschewed drugs. The hardcore practitioners of the straight edge philosophy were devoted to celibacy as well. These bands basically represented a kind of monastic philosophy all messed up with loud guitars and screaming. Pretty fascinating.
There's a line in the novel about "post-psychotherapy Metallica," by which I meant their album Death Magnetic. I was a Metallica fan as an eighth-grader listening to my Walkman in the back seat of the bus in Conway, Washington, and I remain a Metallica fan today. They lost me with everything after the black album and seemed to return somewhat to form with Death Magnetic. I think "Cyanide" is my favorite song on that album. Recently, I was excited to hear they'd teamed up with Lou Reed. Imagine my face smiling as I first listened to streams of that album online, then imagine my smile quickly falling, turning into a grimace.
Ryan Boudinot and Blueprints of the Afterlife 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
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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