A masterful screed against the New Democrats, including an impressively savage (and well-supported) dismantling of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama fromA masterful screed against the New Democrats, including an impressively savage (and well-supported) dismantling of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama from a progressive, populist standpoint.
If you're not familiar with the term New Democrats, or don't know why so many Democrats have become so mad at their party, this book has your answers. For me, this book was coming off the dozens of thinkpieces I've masochistically read over 2016 (and the dreadful Democratic primary, woof), so I was already woke to the massive disappointment of the Democratic Party, and came in with a "what's new?" mentality that lead to some nitpicks. Such as...
The author unfortunately takes a major turn for the Luddite in the last sections of the book, using any Democrat's support for technology, the word "innovation," Uber, and even the internet(!) as a litmus test to expose their unconscious snobbery towards The Working Man.
Thomas Frank argues that the very effort to promote new technology, trade, and innovation (and to label it all as the inevitable future of society) is a betrayal of Democrats' populism and a sign of their pompous ignorance of the working class' needs. There's definitely an ignorance of the working class going on (very well-described by Frank in other places), but I think this time it lies in the failure to fight for social programs and safety nets to the workers hurt by those policies, not the policies themselves. Frank didn't explore this failure of the New Democrats at all, because I think he just doesn't like globalism and technological innovation and wanted to paint them as negatively as possible. It made for a weaker, shriekier argument, for me. (Equating all free trade and goodwill towards Google with They hate non-Ivies!)
Still, his arguments were cogent, and I feel I better understand (very) populist progressivism more than I did before. Even as a raging canvassing Bernie* fanboy I didn't agree with the author on everything but I still felt it serves as a definitive (and depressing, oh is it depressing) chronicle of how the Democratic Party slowly abandoned its populist roots to become the bland, neutered party that pushed for Gore, Kerry, and Hillary in a row. Great job guys.
My background: I somehow had no idea who Phil Collins was until a couple years ago. I found Foxtrot in a pretty contextless way (one of those best-albMy background: I somehow had no idea who Phil Collins was until a couple years ago. I found Foxtrot in a pretty contextless way (one of those best-albums-per-decades lists), loved it, and listened to Trespass and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway before deciding I’d get some solo albums from the singer and the drummer. And the first song on the drummer’s album was In the Air Tonight. Of course I had spent years belting In the Air Tonight and Against All Odds at opportune times, I just had no idea it who was behind it. (In retrospect, I have no idea how that was possible.) Face Value is, for the record, fantastic.
Beyond having the best memoir title ever, this is also a open, honest, funny, and sometimes brutal book. If you read this you’ll probably come away with however you already feel about Phil Collins intensified. If you want to dig for every display of arrogance people show up on comment sections to complain about, you can find some (he’ll admit many), but personally I found it hard to not see him as a self-aware, dutifully hard-working fellow. And somehow in the end, a family man (yes). (He really does care about his kids.)
I also left all the more impressed with his sense of humor about everything (which is prevalent through the book), because he’s really had a crap time these past couple decades. He is a crowd-pleaser—not in a “wow this song has horns, killed Genesis, where’s Nursery Cryme 2 bitch” way, but more of a deeply concerned with giving people a good show to the point it means he’s constantly touring (it’s amazing how many times in this he nonchalantly mentions “100+ show world tour”), rewatching previous performances looking for improvements, worrying about his health and voice, and reading reviews (gulp). The great Phil Collins hate-a-thon that was so hip throughout the 90’s and 00’s must have hurt. The later sections of the book (and his life I suppose) take a dark turn when his often self-destructive work ethic is replaced by constant health issues and an intense battle with alcoholism that ended only a few years before his un-retirement. Yet he’s able to talk about it in a way most people would need a few decades of distancing to be able to do. He’s never had much reprieve, I feel.
He does focus on the side of things only Phil Collins could give. (Which is, of course, what you’d want from a memoir, but this means I’ll have to keep digging for the big nerdy Genesis scoop I crave.) The book is structured chronologically and spends a long time on his childhood and parents and grandparents, which isn’t the most exciting opening, but yunno, it’s important to him.
Overall, even if you have a new burgeoning liking to Genesis and Phil Collins like I do, there was a lot here to enjoy. If you’ve ever watched an interview with the man and ended with a appreciation for his wit or personality, you’ll enjoy this just as well.
Stray observations: • Dance Into the Light is referred to as a “damp squid” of an album. • No, Phil Collins’ 19-year-old conga-playing didn’t end up on All Things Must Pass, but it makes for one of the most entertaining chapters of the book. The unexplained rejection (did he suck? was it just an scrapped arrangement?) bothered Phil throughout the decades. So much that George Harrison played a prank on him by throwing together a tape of Art of Dying with terrible conga-playing over it to send to Phil, who fell for it completely. • Phil knows well about Patrick Bateman and wasn’t very amused (aw) • “[Lily] and I start playing Spyro the Dragon—computer games are one of our new shared passions. I love them, and I love Spyro, although if push comes to shove, I’ll declare myself a Crash Bandicoot man.” (!!!) • Don’t fret, his voice work for Balto isn’t skipped over. • Young pre-Genesis Phil heard wind of Bill Bruford leaving Yes and met Jon Anderson backstage and got his phone number to talk about being the new drummer, but Phil never made the call. • Kenny Baker lived in Phil Collins’ teenage home for half a year. (???) • There are pictures included of Phil taking his young sons to the Alamo. ❤️...more