on ‘consumer guide’ by simon morris

March 3, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Posted in no audience underground, not bloody music | 2 Comments
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Simon Morris – Consumer Guide (hardback, 176 pages, Tegenaria Press, numbered edition of 100, dustjacket text by Philip Best)

consumer guide

This book contains a selection of autobiography and opinion from Simon Morris, best known ‘round these parts as front-man of The Ceramic Hobs. Discovering its existence (by eavesdropping on a twitter conversation between John Eden and Andie Brown) brought on a lust for ownership that shocked me with its meaty fervour. Was I bollocks going to miss this. Those who have read Bang Out Of Order, Simon’s augmented history of the early days of Power Electronics, or his occasional pieces for zines such as Hiroshima Yeah!, or who just know the man and his band, will need little convincing. Allow me to work on the rest of you.

Here’s Simon with the spec:

The first 30 pages ‘Mergers’ is the heart of the book – you may not believe I lived it, I can barely believe I wrote it. Pages 33 to 167 ‘Acquisitions’ features essays and profane outbursts on music ranging from Art Garfunkel to The Grey Wolves, on cinema, on fast food, on alcohol, on love, on literature. The short accompanying text from Dr Best ‘kith and kin’ should speak for itself.

(nicked from the Tegenaria Press blog, as are the pictures)

The opening section is indeed only 30 pages long but is so dense with incident it shames many biographies ten times the length.  An account of some recent dreams leads into a eulogy which in turn becomes a list of those in Simon’s orbit who have died prematurely which flows into an episodic, roughly chronological life story albeit with vectors overlapping: drugs and drink, death and sex, madness and music.  Given its brevity you might expect a collection of anecdotes shorn of context and worn pebble smooth by the retelling, or maybe a stream of consciousness piece more suited to an open mic night.  But it is neither.  Instead you’ll find a moving, funny and profoundly human description of one guy’s attempt to deal with difficult circumstances – occasionally of his own making – and the people he cares about whilst figuring himself out at the same time.  The tone is perfect: recognizable and straightforward but knocked off the ecliptic by enough to make it unique.

The second, much longer, section (set in a Courier-style font for some reason) is a very entertaining collection of (mostly) reviews – music, film, books, fast food, drink, seaside towns and so on are all encapsulated.  Simon does have an arresting turn of phrase but there is nothing overly ‘literary’ about this exercise, nor, thankfully, do you have to hack away at anything academic (no ‘phenomenology of transgression’ here).  It reads like this:

Imagine being at a gig and, in-between acts, chatting to a friend who you don’t see as often as you’d like.  ‘Band X’ gets a mention and your friend says

Oh right, are you into them then?

‘Band X’ being a mystery to you, you shrug sheepishly and your friend says:

ah, I’ll send you some links or something

…and two days later, to your surprise and delight, you get an email from your friend containing one paragraph reviews of pretty much their entire back catalogue written in a perceptive and open-hearted way but with the odd wry barb or flailing complaint chucked in to keep it well seasoned.  How lovely they took the trouble, eh?  And off you pop to YouTube, or Spotify, or to the record library with a print-out in your coat pocket.  This kind of stuff is gold dust and there is a hundred pages of it here.  In fact, it is very hard to remain disciplined and not skip forward pages or flip on the tablet to look up one track and have it playing whilst you read about the next.  I had to read it all twice to calm down enough to take it in once.

There are plenty of negative opinions expressed, something readers of this blog will know I’m not that interested in, but Simon never comes across as a prick because he wears his erudition lightly and his trenchant confidence is clearly borne of passion and experience.  Have to admit I punched the air at this bit though:

THE CLASH – the single most boring rock band that ever existed, clueless politics, tuneless lumpen riffs, overproduction and stylised painful fashion input.  I’d take Jon The Postman over these clowns as far as punk goes.

I wholeheartedly agree – once I heard some teenage aficionado smugly answer the question ‘what is your favourite reggae band?’ with ‘The Clash!’ and I had to be physically restrained from caving his head in with a fire extinguisher.

I found the final two chapters, ‘BAD ADVICE’ and ‘SELF-CRITIQUE’, very moving.  In the first Simon offers a kind of taxonomy of desire and relationships with definitions of the various stages (from: 1. Crushes to: 8. Arguments).  Despite the chapter’s title I found his observations – rueful, comic, joyous, human – to be thoughtful and charming.  The very last section is an account of The Ceramic Hobs’ recorded output in release order with added detail – fascinating to a fan like me – of wider context, of how things were put together and the love and/or turbulence between band members.  It is easy to forget when watching Simon perform, drunk and channelling whatever monster it is that produces that amazing, unique voice, that there is a lifetime’s work involving countless people behind all this.  He seems very proud of it.  He bloody should be.

—ooOoo—

OK: the object – a coat-pocket-sized, black bound hardback – arrived via insanely expensive recorded delivery, carefully packaged and slipped into a candy-stripe paper bag to ensure its matt white dustjacket remained pristine in transit. Both the bag and the book itself are hand-numbered. Yeah, I can sense the fetishists amongst you tremble with excitement. You perverts. Those not prone to hoarding don’t have to worry though; the zen minimalism of the design (by the impeccable Bracketpress) is guaranteed not to fuck with your chi. It sure ain’t cheap (£23.23 all in for the UK, less magical sums if you live abroad) but is apparently being sold at cost price. Given the distinction of the product, and the tiny edition of only 100 copies, I can believe it.

I’ll let Simon have the last word:

There is no plan for a second edition, e-book version or kindle amazon tie-in or film script or community arts funding – you can call it a kind of clandestine integrity if you wish … Satisfy your depraved bibliophiliac lust while you can, dear libertines.

simon

—ooOoo—

Tegenaria Press

2 Comments »

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  1. “arrived via insanely expensive recorded delivery” — same here, but my copy was going to the States! Add to that the shit-awful GBP/USD conversion rate and yee gods, this might rank as the most money I’ve spent on a book less than 150 pages long. Very glad to have ordered it and to own it, but my first thought was “congratulations, Tegenaria Press, and PLEASE don’t release anything else for a while!”

    Agreed on all fronts, especially needing to calm my shit down before reading the reviews section end to end — I keep jumping around so much, wanting to read what he thought of David Lynch, or Art Garfunkel, or fast food chains. I copied a good number of these off of Simon’s facebook feed before he dismantled it (for the first or second time), but I’m still so glad to have them (AND the harrowing personal history!) in the form of this lovely book-object. I’d rather not admit how many times I’ve taken this book off the shelf just to turn it over and over in my hands. I’m not much one for “fancy” book collecting (although that $350 Pynchon edition, utterly out of my price range as it was, surely made me understand the appeal), but this is a lovely piece of work. Big cheers to Simon, and to you, Rob, for the review!

    • Hey Chris, great to hear from you, as ever, and I’m delighted you secured a copy and enjoyed my account of it too. Yes, in an age when an underground music habit can be sustained largely for free, or at most by throwing a few quid around Bandcamp, spending notable dough on a physical object is unusual. This is definitely worth it though! Rob x


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