Re-evaluating, With (Almost) No Apologies

Lost in the GroovesIt’s time to make my dream come true: to review a book of reviews, and I only regret that it isn’t a book of book reviews. I apologize to everyone for that bizarre start, but the apologies stop there. It is my distinct pleasure to call your attention to Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music you Missed. For those perhaps not hip enough to know Scram as a title*—we’re all too familiar now with its significance for the nuclear energy industry—it refers to “Hollywood’s premiere journal of unpopular culture since 1992,” according to itself. Lost in the Grooves may be an anthology of reviews, but, Like Leonard Maltin’s movie guides, it serves many more purposes than its packaging advertises. Here are a few:

It can help you reappraise something you had written off. In my case, Whipped Cream & Other Delights, by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.  Jazz?  Not exactly. Pop? No.  Easy listening? Oh, please.  As the title of the preface to Lost in the Grooves encourages, “Reconsider, Baby.”

It can allow you to pat yourself on the back for liking something that gets a good review from someone you respect. In my case, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, by Neutral Milk Hotel; one of several dozen albums I encountered several years ago under less-than-ideal circumstances, and it has stayed with me through two burglaries to become one of my four or five favorite albums ever (I was the victim, not the burglar). David Smay’s affectionate review reminds me that I should be very grateful that I ever got to know this one.

It can plant album titles in your head that turn up later at garage sales and thrift stores. In my case, a thrift store turned up The World of Strawberry Shortcake—by Flo & Eddie. That’s right, Flo & Eddie: Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of the Turtles, later of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, still later of…well, Flo & Eddie. But this time, are they really aiding/abetting a too-cute cartoon girl with too much hat and apparently no knees? Indeed they are, and I am forever in reviewer Kelly Kuvo’s debt for calling attention to the fact. It will be a while before the library can lend you a copy of this, but in the meantime, refresh your memory about F & E with their “Best of” album (call # 784.742 F6282B)—but only if you still have your turntable.

It can spark your interest in someone you never heard of, or to whom you attached incorrect associations. In my case, The Tubes (their self-titled first album). Was it right for me to tag them as a sort of amusingly unsightly crowd of late-70’s psychedelics? Perhaps, but evidently satirically so, at least in the early going. You should have seen my face when their “20th Century Masters” installment showed up; you should have further seen my face when I listened to “White Punks on Dope” for the first time. Thank you, Rick Moody, for a review that moved me past the above evaluation, as well as the very different impression left by some of their later, um, work.

It can raise your appreciation for a critical review, a somewhat marginalized literary genre. These reviews are not just fun to read, they’re a blast.  The writing has urgency, a great vocabulary, and innocence that can only come from someone sincerely interested in your getting to know some music that they really like.

More than anything else, Lost in the Grooves does what any review (and certainly any review anthology) should do—it tries to help you make informed decisions. But beyond simply giving you facts, it encourages you to set aside reactions to artists, albums, genres, and audiences, and just listen.

* My calling those who aren’t aware of Scram“not hip enough” doesn’t call for an apology, incidentally.  I didn’t know what it was until I looked it up. Does that make me hip enough?

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