Thursday, October 6, 2011

Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time by Courtney E. Smith

First things first: This is a GIRL'S guide to record collecting, not a "women's guide" or even simply a "guide." That means this is the paperback equivalent of painting our toenails and prank calling boys while singing into our hairbrushes. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with that. Music is fun, and talking about music should be fun, too. But this isn't a serious collection development guide, or even a comprehensive n00b guide. Record Collecting for Girls is a breathless memoir of who-I-dated-and-the-soundtrack-to-each-relationship, peppered with genuinely interesting band backstories and info about the music industry. And a lot of Elvis Costello worship. I'm totally down with that. There are also some obnoxiously self-important statements like, "In the interest of full disclosure, I kind of accidentally made Fallout Boy happen." I'm not at all down with that.

I want to make one thing very clear: I didn't choose this book myself. When I came to work last week, I found that Cara had placed it on my keyboard because, as she said, "This is a Jen book." I was sort of amused that she'd pegged me as a record collector, because I don't think of myself that way. But when I glanced at the cover, inwardly shuddered, and thought I don't want to read some other chick's Top 5 lists... I realized it was aimed directly at women like me.

I was thisclose to Elvis Costello.
No zoom was used in the
snapping of this photo, ohno.
Top 5 lists? Yeah, of course she goes there. Under the guise of "let me tell you about me and this boy," Smith covers top 5 lists, High Fidelity, the thorny Beatles vs. Stones question (STONES, y'all), the importance of the perfect playlist (though I still prefer Tedd's guide to mixtapes), groupies vs. band wives, the trouble with boys who like the Smiths a little too much, and every other music nerd cliche. I enjoy it because it's familiar, and she makes me reminisce and laugh. But I'm not sure that readers who haven't experienced the cliches firsthand would enjoy it as much as I do. There are just too many in-jokes, and Smith is so deeply immersed in music culture, I'm not sure she realizes they're in-jokes. She's preaching to the acolytes, not to the choir.

Yes, I STILL want to be
Susanna Hoffs when I grow up.
The "guide" portion of the book consists of 3 - 6 page interludes between chapters, chock full of useful information about music blogs, lastfm, AllRovi, the music community in SecondLife, and advice for developing one's musical taste. But those looking for such guidance on every page will be disappointed. Still, it's fun. And the chapters are divided in such a way that they don't have to be read in sequence. So if you're looking for Pop Culture 101, not a memoir, skip around and read the chapters about girl bands and Madonna. Smith interviewed Susanna Hoffs for this book. I'm just sayin'.

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