I'm split down the middle about John Sellers' book, Perfect From Now On : How Indie Rock Saved My Life. Sellers is a writer only slightly older than me (He was born in 1970, I was born in 1973) whose memoir details a fairly conventional Midwestern childhood where nothing more musically adventurous was available than Top 40 or Classic Rock. Duran Duran was an early love of the author's, for me it was Billy Joel.
Once he gets to high school the story becomes fairly predictable. Shunted into the "uncool" crowd, Sellars slowly begins to discover "alternative" or "indie" music. An early enjoyment of New Order segues into college-era discovery of Joy Division and other Manchester bands. Subsequent chapters detail later obsessions with Pavement (nothing wrong with that) and Guided By Voices (more on that later).
I guess where I part company with Sellars is his tendency to run his obsessions into the ground, to the point of EP-buying, EBay, searching craziness. Sellars tends to run through everything a band puts out and then move on, rather than enjoying the music of his favorites over and over. There's also a strange unwillingness to experience new music.
I can't fault Sellars for his enthusiasm, but the last act of Perfect From Now On really goes off the rails. In 2002 Sellars discovers the album Bee Thousand by the Dayton, Ohio band Guided By Voices, who quickly become his #1 object of desire. (I beat him to that one, hah!) For those who don't know, the now-disbanded GBV are a good but not great band known for a.the insanely prolific songwriting and releasing of leader/vocalist Robert Pollard and b.the absurd amount of alcohol consumed by everyone associated with the band at all times.
The account of a trip to meet & drink with Pollard and see some of GBV's last shows is presented in great detail, and I think it was Sellers' overemphasis on physical proximity to his heroes that rankled me. I've never met Michael Stipe, the Cowboy Junkies, Neko Case, Elvis Costello or hundreds of other musicians I've loved over the years, but that doesn't diminish the role their music has played in my life. Sellers really goes out of his way to assign meaning to what's really a series of drunken binges. (The fact that one of Sellers' girlfriends apparently split up with him over his musical obsessions is relegated to a footnote)
I can't dismiss this book out of hand though, because I do know the feeling of having your life change when hearing a mix tape and wearing a concert T-shirt. I just think we relate to music in a different way, and probably have a different attitude toward drinking. I applaud the author's sincerity, but check out some new bands OK?
(Oh, there are something like 178 footnotes in the book. Some of them run several pages, and I was beginning to get annoyed until Sellers mentions that the footnotes are a tribute to a great book by one of my favorite writers - The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker.)