Popdose at Kirkus Reviews: “One Model Nation”

Written by Books, Kirkus Reviews

For more than 75 years, Kirkus Reviews has served as the industry bible for bookstore buyers, librarians, and ordinary readers alike. Now Popdose has joined the Kirkus Book Bloggers Network, taking to the virtual pages of Kirkus Reviews Online to dish on the best — and sometimes the worst — in pop-culture and celebrity books.

This week, a real musician crafts the story of a make-believe band in the fiction debut of a hot singer-songwriter…

One Model nation cover artRock ‘n’ roll is an artform of gesture and mood, and the skillset it requires does not always translate to the demands of telling a story. Those rockers who successfully manage the transition to fiction are those who approach it from a position of strength. When Nick Cave made the jump to screenplays and novels (The Proposition and The Death of Bunny Munro, most notably), you could see the groundwork in the narrative songs he’d been writing for years; Leonard Cohen was a novelist before he was a songwriter; and before embarking on his literary career — which included a stint as an acquisitions editor at Faber & Faber — Pete Townshend had been rock’s foremost storyteller, experimenting with sustained narratives on iconic albums like Tommy and Quadrophenia. With these musicians, as with younger artists like Joe Pernice and Colin Meloy, a parallel career in prose functions as an extension of their musical careers — a different way of exploring the themes and voices that also inform their songs.

Now Courtney Taylor-Taylor, frontman of the Dandy Warhols, is making the leap with the newly-reissued graphic novel One Model Nation. First published in 2009 to very little fanfare, OMN has been given a lavish hardcover repackaging by Titan, complete with revisions and tweaks to the story, a new foreword from comics glamour-boy Michael Allred, and 25 additional pages of notes, essays, and previously unpublished art. There’s even a companion CD of music inspired by the book.

And for this go-round, Taylor is making sure that his reputation precedes him. Contrast the 2009 publication, which bore the semi-pseudonymous author credit “C. Albritton Taylor,” with the cover of this edition, whereon the words “from the Dandy Warhols” appear prominently — in a typeface fractionally larger than the name of Jim Rugg, in fact, and he’s the one who actually drew the damn thing.

It’s a transparent gambit to raise expectations, and it works in as far as it goes — but it cuts both ways. The Dandies are a tremendously fun and exciting band, and you would expect One Model Nation to abound with the usual rock ‘n’ roll virtues of attitude, atmosphere, and a killer — and you’d be right. But Taylor has never been particularly interested in narrative as a songwriter, and so it comes as no surprise that OMN never really gels as a story.

 

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