From Blue to Black
Joel Lane
(Serpent's Tale) $15

When rebroadcasts of Behind the Music have virtually turned VH1 into a guitar-strewn Biography Channel, and literary musings on explosive rock careers crowd the "just published" tables, do we really need a fictional account of what it's like to be in a struggling band? Loaded with overwrought poignancy and sentimentalized observations, Joel Lane's From Blue to Black tells the story of Triangle, a band that might have been contemporaries of Manic Street Preachers, mid-career Jesus and Mary Chain, and Gallon Drunk--if Triangle were real, that is.

Triangle's brooding, sociopathic vocalist/guitarist, Karl, is quite the scenester: a bisexual malcontent who shows his face in public with perplexing frequency. He plays a cruel game of romantic cat-and-mouse with the protagonist, his lovelorn bassist David, who analyzes all things musical in the adjective- and analogy-puffed vocabulary of a nostalgic rock critic. As a consequence, the reader is often faced with overloaded passages like "Something whispered through us like the wind in a forest. Karl must have heard it too, because he glanced at me and then backstage before snarling into the mic: The grass is never dry/Your children never cry."

Eventually, the novel reveals itself to have taken loose inspiration from the 1995 disappearance of the Manic Street Preachers' presumed dead lyricist/guitarist, Richey Edwards. Immediately thereafter, Karl becomes nothing more than Lane's own wish to solve Edwards' baffling case with a fantastical, idyllic climax, again evoking the imagery-laden prose of nostalgic criticism. As fiction, the tale provides little excitement, and several critics, as well as the remaining members of the Manics, have already published books on the real story.

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