Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: 33 1/3 #77 Tusk

Rob Trucks opens his volume on Fleetwood Mac's classic album "Tusk" with a warning of sorts: "There's a character named Rob in this book who functions in ways that may or may not clearly relate to Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, and if you don't feel like you can handle that, then by all means put this book down." Trucks' "warning" does two things for me--first, it really kind of annoys me. Okay, so you wrote a not entirely conventional piece of music journalism. So what? So some boring readers don't like it when music journalism has things like "personality" and "style" and only want to read the same boring facts and anecdotes presented in the same boring way over and over again. By "warning" these people away from a book, you're essentially apologizing to them for not writing the book they would have written. Never apologize to those people. Odds are, what you've written is better than what they would have written. Odds are, what you've written is better than they're ideal of what should have been written. Second--the warning made me more excited about the volume than I had been. Tusk has always been my favorite Fleetwood Mac album, but then, I've never been a huge Fleetwood Mac fan, so that doesn't mean much. Trucks' "warning" sent a clear message to me that said, "hey, this book could be a little bit bold--I like bold, let's read."

And read I did.

And to be honest, Rob Trucks has some serious chops. He does a nice job of navigating dueling stories about the creation of Tusk with moments from his own life which, at times, hardly seem relevant to the album, but which ultimately add up to some sort of psychic and/or spiritual homage to the album's creation and themes. What makes this even more impressive is that Trucks never condescends to his audience, never feels the need to explicitly explain the connection between the bits of memoir and the bits of Fleetwood Mac history. He lets us intuit the relationship. Let's us feel our ways in, around, and through his experiences and how they play off of Tusk. The end result is not just a book that is engaging and smart with a clear emotional core, but a beautifully written, ecstatically felt study of subjectivity and art that might even deserve a second read.

Of course, not everything is perfect in Trucks' take on Tusk. A few of the "What We Talk About When We Talk About Tusk" sections--in which Trucks interviews musicians about the album's influence on their careers--feel a bit tacked on and completely unnecessary and/or uninteresting. Avey Tare's insight into Tusk is about as interesting and relevant as his latest solo album (burn!) and the Walter Egan section, though only a few pages, is pretty boring.

All in all, though, Rob Trucks has delivered a fine volume in a run of great volumes for the 33 1/3 series. His prose is crisp and fresh and I enjoyed learning about Rob Trucks' relationship to Tusk as much as I enjoyed learning about the album itself.


Next up, Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle.

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