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The latest offering in the 33-1/3 series of books by Continuum explores Gentlemen, the seminal album by oft-overlooked grunge era casualties, The Afghan Whigs. Writer Bob Gendron has chosen to take a middle-of-the-road approach to assessing the album, using conversations with the band and major players in the record's story to provide in-depth background information before eventually investigating the album itself at length.
Gendron does an exceptional job of describing the circumstances that lead to the writing of Gentlemen, the actual recording process, and the subsequent period following the album's release. One problem for this reader: I have not only never listened to Gentlemen, but cannot recall ever having heard any Afghan Whigs songs at all. My ignorance of the subject at hand is, however, of little consequence to Gendron and his book, a large portion of which, to its credit, held my attention regardless. Good rock 'n roll stories are always captivating, and while not diving into the excesses or tawdry anecdotes the way Nikki Sixx would, Gendron slightly titillates while using the kind-of sordid stories as a context to describe the duress and emotional fragility from which Gentlemen sprung.
A good deal of the book delves enthusiastically into the minutiae of the album, deftly and methodically examining songs and their themes at length. These points of microscopic dissection are where Gendron lost me. The writing is strong and well thought out, but without having an emotional attachment, never mind even having heard the songs, Gendron's arguments and musings fell on deaf ears. If I had a little more disposable income right now, this book might have piqued my interest enough to visit a record store; there's not really a dud in the 33-1/3 catalog, so it must follow that Gentlemen is worth checking out. Better yet - and I'm sure this is hardly feasible for a myriad of legal reasons - it would be fantastic if Continuum included the titular album with each corresponding book. There's a very good chance that hearing the object of obsession alongside the book would provide more of an incentive, for those not already converted, to read up on an unknown album and would definitely create an excellent reading experience. Assuming that a reader has first-hand knowledge of Black Sabbath's Master Of Reality is one thing, Gentlemen is quite another.
As it stands, if you are a fan of any album the series tackles - to date 61 books have been published, covering artists from Celine Dion to Throbbing Gristle - the corresponding edition of the 33-1/3 series is a must read. Even readers unfamiliar with the material can be assured that Continuum has consistently published authoritative and entertaining reads.
As such, I would absolutely love to read a lengthy, informed, highly intelligent, and emotionally invested survey of Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion I and II - an album that features "Get In The Ring," includes a song that was featured in the movie Terminator 2, and is considered more influential than Appetite for Destruction - which, lo and behold, Continuum published last year. SEE ALSO: www.myspace.com/theafghanwhigs
SEE ALSO: www.33third.blogspot.com
SEE ALSO: www.continuumbooks.com
An aspiring global adventurer who cut his teeth on the sandy beaches and dirty bitches of Southern California, Kevin Alfoldy now spends his non-vacation days in Brooklyn, New York, where he occasionally finds the time to rub the crust out of his eyes long enough to contribute reviews and feature articles for LAS. A longtime staff member, Kevin also captains the tattered, often half-sunk raft of EPmd, our irregular column of EP reviews.
See other articles by Kevin Alfoldy.
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