by carl wilson

Genuine Fakes

Yuval Taylor and Hugh Barker are the authors of a new book called Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music, one of those books that, as a writer, make you smack your head and say, "Why didn't I think of that?" In a sense, I did think of it - my Celine Dion book is in part very much about the relationship between credibility and perceptions of authenticity, but I was surprised a big publisher (Norton) would do a book on such a seemingly abstruse topic head-on. Barker & Taylor make it accessible with reams of anecdotal and musical examples, from Leadbelly and the Lomaxes to Donna Summer to J-Lo, with cases just familiar enough to be engaging and just obscure enough to be instructive. I don't agree with everything they say but it's a very good read. (Interestingly, it shares its main title with another recent book on the question of authenticity, but from a philosophical point of view on ethics, sincerity and conventional behaviour. It's a fraught issue of the era, not just in music or even the arts, for some reasons I hope to speculate about in my book.)

Barker and Taylor are also blogging on related matters, and the quality of their entries there so far may tell you whether you'd like to read the book. I found out about the blog at the tail end of a nice interview with Taylor on the web/NPR show The Sound of Young America - currently you can find the episode here. I like this program enough to subscribe to its podcast, but much prefer it when it relaxes its fixation on comedy and uses host Jesse Thorn's quite considerable talents and charms as an interviewer. (Also highly recommended is his interview with Matmos from October.)

| Posted by zoilus on Saturday, April 07 at 2:40 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)



As I already said to you a while back in a comment, I think "Faking It" is really great, and I wish I had written it . It crystallized and put so much stuff into words for me. When J-Shaw and I go on about the power of critics and the impact they have on the music making process, we're touching on a lot of the issues here. If I had a dollar for every time a musician I know talked to me about their work in the terms discussed in this book, I'd be a rich man. Let's just say these folks didn't learn this framework in a vacuum. They read music mags just like the rest of us.

I've also seen first hand the burden people carry around related to conforming to these notions. It can be quite heavy.

That's why starting the book with Cobain is fitting. Certainly, he was a guy with plenty of problems, but I think the authenticity burden weighed heavily and really started to take the joy out of the music making process. I wouldn't go so far as to say it killed him. But it certainly didn't help.

No book on this subject could be perfect, and sometimes it seems like the authors have a difficult time completely escaping the analytic paradigm they seek to deconstruct. But this book is nevertheless very worthy and also a very nice read.

While I'm here rambling, I should also suggest Joe Boyd's book "White Bicycles." The book jacket has a quote from Brian Eno that it's "one of the best books about music he has read in years," or something like that. I'd have to agree that it's a really great book.

Boyd was on the scene of so much cool stuff (backstage at Newport the year Dylan went electric, on tour with old Blues and Jazz musicians, producing Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Fairport, etc.). If you care about any of that stuff, this is a great read, especially because Boyd is a smart guy, writes well, and has a bit more of a macro-analytical perspective on the times than a lot of other folks from his mileau. He's clearly fond of the past, thinks it's special, and mourns the passing of certain moments and people. But he doesn't romanticize it either.

Great and a real page turner. I stayed up way too late a couple nights reading it.

Posted by j-lon on April 7, 2007 8:29 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson