MixedThe Guardian (UK)If you are curious about Dave Grohl, drummer from \'tragic grunge poster boys\' Nirvana, whose Nevermind album has just turned 30, The Storyteller might not be the memoir for you ... He also has three daughters who will in all likelihood read this; the book feels like an intentionally PG take on what could be a much rowdier, more hair-raising tale ... For anyone interested in how a hyperactive misfit from suburban Virginia became a third of Nirvana and went on to become a stadium-filling star with his own Foo Fighters, The Storyteller lives up to its billing. This is a compendium of vignettes from a rock’n’roll life lived with brio ... As with many memoirs, artists’ origin stories can resonate far more sonorously than their victory laps; so it is with Grohl’s. Those years spent crammed into vans, living off fumes and the kindness of female mud wrestlers are some of the most vivid here. The camaraderie and sudden violence of the international punk ecosystem is beautifully evoked as he lurches from high jinks with Italian tattooists to Dutch squat riots ... somehow, the A-list fun is less exhilarating than the time a very pre-fame Grohl is roped in to play drums for Iggy Pop ... while Grohl is a lively and thoughtful writer, deeper than his great bloke reputation, what rankles are the weird editorial decisions: the repetitions, and the changes to a weird font when he wants to emphasise a point. That hand-holding jars with the image of a bespectacled rock elder statesman on the cover, gazing maturely backwards.
PositiveThe Observer (UK)... [Smarsh] is well placed to understand how Parton sang directly to rural women about unwanted pregnancies and cheating men, about hard work and escaping intolerable situations ... excellent.
PositiveThe Guardian UKThe annals of rock are littered with used needles and the damage they have done. Few drug enthusiasts can have sunk so low, however, as singer Mark Lanegan, whose eye-popping memoir explores hell’s many sub-basements, and lived to produce good writing ... There is no way this man should be alive ... At one dire point in this harrowing tale, Lanegan’s sex worker/addict companion – known as Shadow – disappears. He eventually learns from a news report that she has fallen victim to a serial killer. Whether this is the single most awful thing to happen in these pitch-stained pages is a close call ... The writing here is mostly rugged, male and often blackly malevolent ... Lanegan asks for little pity: he confesses to a slew of extraordinarily unsavoury acts. All his bad luck, self-sabotage and radical candour is delivered in an eloquent, matter-of-fact tone. There is real regret for the relationships he ruined and a fierce and idealistic loyalty to the music that moves him ... It might be a spoiler to reveal how Lanegan’s salvation eventually comes and who, unexpectedly, foots the bill for his rehab. This is a narrative packed with surprises, most not of the good kind. But there is room in this heavy, heavy book for quite astonishing turns of kismet.
RaveThe Observer (UK)It is to Reg Dwight – the music obsessive, the football fan, the son of quite a mother – you must cling throughout a no-holds-barred memoir ... a landmark in the whole memoir genre. A tale this eye-popping, this name-dropping, this chemically enhanced, this era-charting should be quite hard to mess up. But John’s willingness to reveal and Petridis’s unerring ability to foreground John’s ridiculousness are key ... The radical candour is one of this memoir’s strongest suits ... The tone is off just once: he’s a tad too flippant about his two suicide attempts – cries for help, he contextualises, but playing them almost for laughs as just more drama ... One big appeal of this book to most readers will be that simply everyone is in here ... Being a nightmare is very much John’s brand and the subplot throughout is one of post-hoc self-deprecation and enough eye-rolling contrition to make it all palatable ... It is to this book’s credit, though, that a lot of time is spent not just recounting how Sylvester Stallone fancied Princess Diana but in the fertile mulch that was the British 60s blues-rock scene, where the future pantheon of pop stars rubbed along.
PositiveThe Observer (UK)Harry’s memoir is her first, correcting an egregious absence. That one of the most famous women in pop should not have recounted her story until now is hard to believe – that is, until you start reading and learn of Harry’s deep reticence at having to rake over the past. She spends a chapter discussing the marvel that is the opposable thumb, as though straining for the word count on a homework assignment ... On the page, [Harry] is far goofier than you’d expect. There is a surprising matter-of-factness with which Harry discusses her face: she knows full well people masturbated to posters of her. She acknowledges the weird superpowers beauty gave her and has unapologetic surgery to preserve it. But there is also ambivalence towards her looks ... One particularly terrific shot of Harry by her then partner, Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, finds her holding a burning frying pan in the squalor of their New York apartment, wearing a chiffon gown. It’s the squalor to which you are inevitably drawn ... Face It’s title reveals a grudging reckoning.
PositiveThe Observer (UK)... presents more like a work of poetry or a novella than a conventional first-person narrative ... The other goings-on, however, are both elliptical and not a little confounding ... Everything is unprecedented in Year of the Monkey, Smith seems to be saying. Time concertinas, reality is unmoored. But you get the feeling that Smith might exist in a permanent Stendhal syndrome swoon, as Flemish altarpieces, Dragon Ball anime and Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit all swirl around in her mind ... The book is a highly individual stocktaking of a most unusual 70th year of a great woman of letters. But what happens next?
PositiveThe GuardianAs this wide-ranging, matter-of-fact memoir makes clear...the goal was always \'to capture joy\' through a visionary strain of rock music, laced with radical politics and free jazz extemporisations. It is a mealy-mouthed cliche to talk of people who have done a lot of work on themselves. But clearly Kramer has gone at analysis and restitution with the ravenous gusto with which he first embraced rhythm and blues and the British invasion—and, later, crime. His journey from fatherless child to musical maverick to junkie to upstanding survivor reads like a history of the late 20th century, or possibly a gritty paperback ... This journey through the hard stuff is admirably hard on Kramer himself. The self-portrait that emerges here is of an intelligent man of no little principle, slugging it out with his inner thug, losing battle after battle before finally, painfully, winning back both career and respect.
RaveThe GuardianMoran’s default candour continues here ... There are many reasons to read Moran – the demystifying glee around the squelchy stuff, her helter-skelter verbiage, always barrelling towards a zinger of a phrase, her bottomless fount of ideas ... Ultimately, How to Be Famous is less a roman-à-clef than a rollicking fantasy, where everyone is always witty, princes whisk their loves away in business class, and Moran is able to play out some very satisfying 2018 scenarios in 1995 ... The bestselling poptimist has rewritten her past in heroic terms, creating a rollicking fantasy which leaves a rosy afterglow.
RaveThe GuardianThose hungry for an insight into the Wu’s lifestyles or their inner creative processes will get a few peeks into the mansions and the recording booths here. Hawkins’s fight to get his bars up to scratch after coming out of prison is strangely poignant, even in this context. The bigger story, though, is his life. He writes with a mixture of braggadocio, insight, pride and weariness about the years leading up to the Wu-Tang ... A breakdown, sobriety and therapy have had a role in the making of this memoir, which should have an audience in hip-hop fans and policymakers alike.
PositiveThe GuardianAt 688 pages, the life work of Elvis Costello is a whopper – written elliptically, episodically, beautifully and infuriatingly by turns.
PositiveThe GuardianLike in Portlandia, there are laughs here – mostly to be found in Brownstein’s amused tone as she dissects childhood escapades, failed try-outs for bands, her penchant for adopting rescue animals. When they get loose, adopting too many animals isn’t remotely funny any more. And so it’s the emotive revelations that make up the grist of this memoir...