Book and Album reviews: Week 10

Book: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Y’know, it’s only in comics that Gaiman could be considered even slightly challenging. The more I read his books, that more I think that he’s extremely lightweight. Sub-Pratchett lightweight. Now, that’s not to say that this is a bad thing, but I expected more from this New York Times bestseller, about the sons of Anansi, the trickster spider god. Don’t get me wrong – I had a hard time putting this book down, because it is very engaging – a blurb the back cover calls it Wodehouse-esque, or something like, which is quite over the top, but it does have the sort of gentle english mildly amusing humour in it (without ever approaching Wodehouse’s gift for laugh-out-loud language and metaphor). But still, I think it took me maybe three or four hours total to read this novel. It’s very light, and not even the suggested book club questions at the back could fool me into feel like I was reading something deep or complex.

I’m really damning this with faint praise, aren’t I? Look, it’s good. I liked it. It’s a lot lighter than American Gods (or even Sandman), but on the other hand, it has a protagonist that actaully wants things, and does something about them. If you like Gaiman, or you like stories about Anansi, then go for it.

Album: Grinderman by Grinderman

I’m still making my mind up. Which isn’t terribly helpful in a review, I know. I think it’d probably help if I heard a lot of this live – it’s fast, loud-sounding stuff. But it too, feels very light compared to earlier works. Which is sort of the point of Grinderman as I understand it – a bunch of musicians just having fun rattling this stuff at high speed out without trying to be too clever – an attempt to reach back to their more raucous youth. But aside from the singles – “Get It On” and “No Pussy Blues”, there’s nothing that really jumps out on a first couple of listens.

But y’know, it’s Cave. Even light, he’s still one of the finest songwriters around. Honestly, I don’t think it’s really reaching that far back – Cave’s lyrics are in his more recent style, rather than the expressionist styles of the Birthday Party, and while the music is heavy on the guitars, it lacks the menace of the like of The Mercy Seat.

And yet, as I write this, cutting back and forth between Grinderman and early Bad Seeds (I don’t have any Birthday Party to hand), I hear more commonality in the music than I might have thought, from the overall impression. Maybe it’s just the change in Cave’s lyric writing.

I suspect that this one will grow on me. Even over the course of writing this review, I can feel some of the other tracks on the album making more of an impact. And I remain convinced that some of them will really come into their own live.

So that was no help at all, right?

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