Brian's Reviews > Wowee Zowee

Wowee Zowee by Bryan Charles
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Aug 12, 10

bookshelves: music

Like many of the 33 1/3 series books I've read, it's best to just listen to the album in question rather than read the book about it. Though Charles did bring in some relatively interesting insights from interviews with band members, the focus of the book itself is vague.

Some books in the 33 1/3 series go with a straightforward fact-based narrative "Such and such was recorded at this time in this studio with this sort of equipment" intermixed with anecdotal narrative from the parties involved. Other books are exercises in tedious nostalgia waxing on when the author first bought the album in question, who they were fucking at the time, how the record seemed to make the "air brighter", etc. Finally, there's the arty, sub-par prose method where the author makes a flowery narrative loosely based on the songs. Charles manages to do all three, saving the arty bit for the end, while the rest of the book jumps from nostalgia to facts. As stated in another review, Charles latches onto the Wowee Zowee album-as-intentional-career-killer myth. This theory is pretty much debunked by all the band members, and no conclusions are made by the author from this debunking, so I was left wondering what was the point of the exercise if nothing was to follow from this conclusion.

Furthermore, it seemed that Charles didn't really do his homework, like even reading the liner notes to the Wowee Zowee reissue released almost four years ago. Had he done so he would not have been surprised by the fact that four songs on the album were recorded during sessions for the previous album, nor would he have included the mostly useless 15 minutes worth of conversation he had with Doug Easley, engineer for the WZ sessions, that said the same things Easley wrote in the reissue notes, only more informative.

Basically, this book suffers from what some other books in the series suffer from -- having a drooling fanboy as the author. Personally, I enjoy the dorky, tech stuff. What kind of amps were used, what were the recording sessions like, etc. I don't really need another tale of the recent college graduate whose ennui is soothed by the salve of whatever album is being written about. Any music fan has that story, that one record, that one girlfriend and that one song, etc. We know. That lightning storm in the desert while listening to "Summertime Rolls", the squalid college dorm that had "Unsatisfied" on constant repeat, we've heard these stories, and their variants, because we all have them. If you're going to tell us a story we already know, you better make it pretty damn good. And if you have a band, or an album, that you've obsessed over for years and years, think long and hard before you decide to write a whole book about it.
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