Arizona Daily Wildcat November 24, 1997
Slacker reading for the slacker in you
I have reached that point in my education and social awareness where I feel the need to define myself. Define myself in the context of society.
It's pointless and everything, that I know, but I've read many a Douglas Coupland book and I relate somewhat, even though I'm technically not a part of Generation X. And it's fun to read things you almost relate to, even if the characters are cooler than you could ever imagine being.
And then there's Jeff Gomez.
Gomez wrote Our Noise as a zine in 1993, published it as a book in 1995. It fell into the hands of my non-Gen-X peers through connections in California who are always down with shit like that. The five-minute lapse in my hands was met with laughter and mockery - why would I want to read a book with a chapter called "Don't You Fugaz About Me?" about a bunch of slacker indie rock geeks?
And then, without warning, Jeff Gomez and his slackers came back into my life like an annoying acquaintance in a small town. Surprisingly enough, the slacker author wasn't slacker enough to not put out Indie Rock Geeks Part Two. It's called Geniuses of Crack, and yes, that is a Tsunami song. I had nothing better to do, so I started reading it.
Geniuses of Crack is about the band Bottlecap, introduced in Our Noise. At the end of Our Noise, Mark, Gary and Steve board a plane heading for L.A. to sign a record deal with an A&R man from some hip new "alternative" label created by a larger major label.
Geniuses of Crack is about how Bottlecap gets screwed. It's about three guys who haven't even gotten through community college and how they deal with transforming from nobody bar musicians in a small town in Virginia to record-company pawns.
Mark, the lead singer, realizes he's being taken for a ride, pulls the "I'm an artist, you can't own me" thing and splits, but only after soaking up the rays of Hollywood glory for a while. Gary, the bassist, decides to become "cool" and starts shopping at thrift stores and buying retro clothing. Steve, the drummer, befriends a low-life artist and resorts to smoking heroin with him on Thanksgiving.
Where Douglas Coupland manages to create icons of cultural apocalypse who spit out profundities in droves, Gomez creates people like the ones you run into at the record store, gazing longingly at T-shirts. People who know nearly every band with "super" in their name. Indie rock geeks.
Thanks to Jeff Gomez, I have realized that I am an indie rock geek. I can easily relate to all the pop-culture images and allusions, like to the obscure Disney after-school special "Escape to Witch Mountain." There were moments in Geniuses of Crack when I just had to laugh because of how much it reminded me of people I actually know.
Gomez's writing style evokes an understanding of how musicians and people in general relate to each other, but in the television sense of reality: entertaining pop culture realistic enough to catch your interest but still unrealistic enough to make you feel like your own life is relatively OK. You keep reading about these poor boys who are being taken for a ride by uncaring and money-hungry Los Angeles music execs because you know what it's like to be swimming in the great toxin-infested pond that is the modern rock world. And like a TV show, there's even a weak plot twist where Hanes, your typical aspiring money-hungry exec who works in the mailroom, undermines Bottlecap with the help of Steve's drug buddy by doing voice-overs on Bottlecap's proposed single.
Bottlecap could easily be any of those bands on the radio these days. So Gomez has created in Geniuses of Crack a nifty little TV world that makes sense in relation to the state of "cool" music. The book is good brain-dead reading for any '90s era aspiring musician. You'll never, ever, want to sign a record deal.