BOOK REVIEW: Sophomore Songs by Clarke Geddes

BOOK REVIEW: Sophomore Songs by Clarke Geddes

How does one become qualified to write a fictional music novel? The author of Sophomore Songs offers some clues. Growing up reading NME, doing a stint at Clash, drumming for several bands on and off, and touring globally provided more than sufficient material for this novel that draws from Geddes’ experience of the business from both sides, artist and critic alike.  

Sophomore Songs introduces the reader to a sincere band dedicated to music as an art form who have enjoyed relative success after releasing and touring their debut LP. They go to the studio on a remote Scottish island to record their sophomore LP, which will become Sophomore Songs.

Whilst this band is on the way up, the trio are now down to two after their drummer decided that they could not cope with the routine of extensive touring and being away from home. Frontman and primary songwriter Nick has anxiety and mental health issues that require medication. Nick also has an unhealthy penchant for substances beyond his prescribed medication and enjoys a drink. Dom, the “Punk Jennifer Hudson”, who knows how to master Fender Jazz bass, is the strong one who keeps the band together.

Things get off to a good start. The duo quickly build a bond with the sound engineer, partly through music and partly by not committing the faux pas of calling the sound guy – “sound guy”. Instead, they call the “sound guy” by his name, Cammie. Furthermore, Nick is dating the sound producer’s niece, Ana, and their relationship grows without jeopardising Nick’s band duties. As well as having a good plot line and featuring a good mix of musicians from Leonard Cohen to Nirvana, Sophomore Songs also references less instantly recognisable household names, including Nine Black Alps and the recently deceased Rodriguez.

Nick, Dom and Cammie are impressed with how well the recording process goes. The “magic” does not get lost when the record is mixed. Furthermore, in track eight, the “un-writable rule” for “a great record” is “amazing”. Even cocaine and late nights do not ruin the chemistry. The chemistry also extends to becoming close friends with the locals on the island. The band’s only challenge and existential threat is when there is an unexpected change in producer and, subsequently, manager.

Sophomore Songs like track eight on this band’s album has “a punchy Nirvana feel” with many “punchy indie nuggets” throughout. Its most significant achievement is its ability to convince readers that they are following the story of a real band instead of a fictional one. Readers with an in-depth insight into the music industry will seldom find plot holes.

Non-specialists will learn a few things, too. Everyone will be impressed and elated with an original story that breaks the mould of cliché storyboards where a band forms and unconvincingly goes through trials and tribulations to reach the top of the charts in the land of make-believe. The band’s ego then gets the better of them and falls out of favour with itself, and fans start to dislike the band.

The band members then climb down from their high horses, learn to be humble, remember what initially brought them together, mostly money and fame, and return to success. Here is to Clarke Geddes, rock n’ roll and giving tired scripts the middle finger.

Xsnoize Author
Michael Barron 313 Articles
Michael first began writing whilst studying at university; reviewing the latest releases and live gigs. He has since contributed to the Fortean Times as well as other publications. Michael’s musical tastes vary from Indie to psychedelic, folk and dubstep.

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