The Boy Who Cried Freebird: Rock & Roll Fables and Sonic Storytelling
Mitch Myers might have done better to split The Boy Who Cried Freebird into two separate halves: one devoted to straightforward rock journalism and another for fiction-oriented CD reviews and tall tales best told over tallboys. Intercut, the author's assorted short takes-culled from All Things Considered, Magnet, Tracking Angle, Smug, Newcity, and Harp, among other media outlets-only serve to nearly cancel one another out. So a farcical tale of a concert-goer who routinely requests "Free Bird" until a band inexplicably acquiesces shares real estate with an appreciative rundown of minimalist godfather Terry Riley's career; a quick Captain Beefheart review disguised as the prelude to a marital spat is followed, some 60 pages later, by an informative, sourced-to-the-hilt feature on Doug Sahm.
Myers is at his best at extreme-soberly matter-of-fact or it-goes-to-11 bonkers. A re-evaluation of Metal Machine Music demystifies Lou Reed's Trojan horse pre-noise opus for those not yet brave enough to take it on; ditto for "What Can You Do That's Fantastic?," an in-depth overview of Frank Zappa's work that portrays the late musician as an exacting, visionary taskmaster on the order of James Brown. Myers' shaggy-dog fabrications, on the other hand, rock that poised yet ludicrous stance found in J.D. Salinger's "Hapworth 16, 1924" or those Isaac Asimov trifles spawned by a bet or a dare. Check the one about the Grateful Dead fan who escapes a bland, late-21st-century nonexistence via time-travel ticket to catch his heroes in their prime-after being accosted and harassed by Sonny Barger. Elsewhere, the Mekons are offered up as mood music for a Linda Lovelace-spurred, mass wanking session for preteen boys who make statements like, "My dad says they're from England and used to inhabit a sociopolitical/musical realm somewhere between the Clash and the Pogues."
Sometimes Myers' gambits don't quite work. On paper, "The Ballad of John Henry and the Wheels of Steel"-a stirring drummer vs. turntablist update of the John Henry folk tale-can't help but disappoint when compared to Myers' dramatic reading of the story on NPR's All Things Considered. For the most part, though, Freebird will sate anyone lusting for intelligent, polite rock writing and dubiously weird lore.