Friday, 22 January 2016

no mercy

On Thursday 21 January I finished No Mercy, David Buckley's 1997 biography of The Stranglers, which had been on my current reading shelf for a long time (I see I started it in 2009). It was an odd combination of detailed and vague.

It was authorised, which I guess may have been responsible for the odd approach by which there was no coherent narrative or critical perspective. There were obviously a number of interviews done, some in greater length than others; if there was a moment of conflict between the band members (and there were plenty) he would just quote the contradictory interpretations and agree with each of them; if there was bad behaviour (and there was plenty), he would describe it, and then give the quotes of their perspective; all done in a vague and somewhat distant way, too much the apologist. They sound awful, individually and as a group.

The chronology was muddy, and there was very little on the creative process - the writing and the recording, and the record releases, seemed almost peripheral and not really gone into, which might have made it more interesting. And you got the impression that in fact the writer didn't much like the music, as he didn't seem to much like any of the albums - though to be fair the band members themselves seem to be critical of them all in various ways. It was written in 1997, after a couple of albums with the two replacements for Hugh Cornwell, and the quotes from the current band members, old and new, were so forthrightly critical of other members that it seemed hard to imagine that the band would survive reading the drafts/proofs of the book, yet they did.

Even without having the comparison of the other band biography I'm currently reading - Mark Lewisohn's first volume on The Beatles - I would still think it was pretty shoddy work.

More ammunition for the case that you're better off not knowing anything about creative artists whose work you enjoy, especially musicians; just enjoy the work. And The Stranglers have produced some records I very much enjoy - though it's fair to say, nothing in particular beyond the singles (lacking strength in depth, as they'd say on Match Of The Day).