BOOKS

Vic­to­ria Se­gal picks the best mu­sic books of the month.

Q (UK) - - Review -

In his elo­quent in­tro­duc­tion to 1 Alone And Palely Loi­ter­ing (OC­TO­PUS, ★★★★ ) , pho­tog­ra­pher Kevin Cum­mins quotes Su­san Son­tag: “pho­tog­ra­phy is an ele­giac art, a twi­light art.” Those words have a par­tic­u­lar res­o­nance when look­ing at this col­lec­tion of Cum­mins’s pic­tures of Mor­ris­sey, largely taken in the late ’ 80s and early ’ 90s, as the singer ac­cli­ma­tised to post-Smiths solo life. The Mor­ris­sey recorded here doesn’t ex­ist now – not just be­cause of nat­u­ral change and ero­sion, but be­cause it’s im­pos­si­ble to look at these im­ages with­out think­ing of to­day’s Mor­ris­sey and his in­creas­ingly ugly views. Un­sur­pris­ingly, given Cum­mins’s his­tory, the pho­to­graphs are beau­ti­fully com­posed, though, from the live shots with their web­bing of shred­ded shirts and out­stretched arms to the lyri­cal por­traits on stair­cases or Ja­panese streets. You might ex­pect 2 The Death Archives: May­hem 1984-94 (EC­STATIC PEACE, ★★★★ ) to burn in your hands like the evil book in a bad su­per­nat­u­ral drama, but Jørn “Ne­crobutcher” Stub­berud’s ac­count of the Nor­we­gian black metal band is sur­pris­ingly gen­tle. The 1991 sui­cide of singer Per “Dead” Oh­lin and the sub­se­quent mur­der of Oys­tein “Eurony­mous” Aarseth by Burzum’s Varg Vik­ernes have been much fetishised, but the bassist’s nar­ra­tive is more strik­ing for its in­sights into skint ca­ma­raderie than the scene’s ex­tremes. The book works as a pho­to­graphic es­say about one youth tribe – the pic­tures of ’ 80s knitwear, or the band laugh­ing though mouth­fuls of blood, are great – but even with the corpse paint, Stub­berud tells a uni­ver­sal story of young men fight­ing bore­dom and fight­ing the world. “There are lots of ways to tell a story,” says Will Ashon, for­mer head of Big Dada records, and in 3 Cham­ber Mu­sic (GRANTA, ★★★★ ) , he uses 36 chap­ters to an­a­lyse the Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 de­but En­ter The Wu-Tang ( 36 Cham­bers). It’s a method that gen­er­ates a blaz­ing col­lec­tion of es­says, Ashon rang­ing through sub­jects that in­clude the US jus­tice sys­tem, the Na­tion of Is­lam and mar­tial arts. A col­lage on the theme of the Wu-Tang, it’s a smart echo of his in­flu­en­tial source ma­te­rial.

The Death Archives is strik­ing for its in­sight into skint ca­ma­raderie.

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