There’s something novel about this concept: the soundtrack of a book. While the realistic word for it is probably “cross-marketing”, the hapless dreamers among us can ponder: are we supposed to listen to the relevant song while reading Hornby’s chapter on it? Even if we don’t possess posh headphones like the pretty model on the sleeve (entirely inappropriate unless the album is also a bottle of conditioner), are we to aim for a music-literature ‘synergy’ experience? I’ve just tried skimming Little Dorrit while headbanging to lggy and, frankly, it doesn’t work. So let’s just assume this is?as the author’s sleevenotes suggest?”a compilation tape. Listen to these songs, enjoy them, spread the word, and keep them to yourself, all at the same time. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.” While there are nice songs here, and dreary ones, it’d be hard to keep them secret?many are eulogised by Uncut every month, and sometimes you expect Jools Holland to waddle in from camera left to post-ironically holler, “Wasn’t that marvellous?” On the plus side, this may introduce the likes of Paul Westerberg, Mark Mulcahy and The Bible to the biggest audience they’ve ever enjoyed.
There’s no doubting The Nickster’s sincerity. Let’s face it, you’d have to be sincere to have Jackson Browne and Richard and Linda Thompson in there. The aroma of worthy middle-aged blokedom is slightly offset by the stark Ani DiFranco and The Avalanches’ “Frontier Psychiatrist”. The pinnacles are obvious, but pinnacles nonetheless?Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”, The Velvelettes’ “Needle In A Haystack”, even Rod rumbling through Dylan’s “Mama, You Been On My Mind”. There are up-to-muster contributions from Rufus Wainwright, Ben Folds Five and Teenage Fanclub, and the best’s saved for last with Patti Smith’s immortal “Pissing In A River”. Which, in context, serves as an act of noble subversion.
Faithful to its own highs.