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BOOK REVIEW:

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You

It’s happened to all of us. You hear a song and it instantly raises your spirits. Or, you hear a different song and it instantly makes you feel melancholy. Some music makes you want to move, while other music makes you want to relax and be still. Something reminds you of a song and then it is repeatedly playing in your head all day long. Music elicits reactions, whether wanted or unwanted. But what if music were used, intentionally, for questionable purposes? This is the intriguing question explored by Scotto Moore in Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You.

A long-time music blogger realizes that his reactions to a song he has stumbled across are remarkable. He can barely turn the song off, even when he knows that he must. And even then, the memory of the music continues to pull at him. When he searches for the band, called Beautiful Remorse, online he finds they astonishingly have no web-presence. There are no webpages, no Facebook pages, not even on YouTube. The only thing he can find is an entry on Bandcamp, a promotional site for new bands, with little information other than the promise that the band will be releasing a new single the following day.

Calling in some favors from contacts within the music industry, he is told the name of the lead singer, but again, there is little to no information about her available. And then he receives a mysterious email, inviting him to see the band’s first live performance in Austin, Texas. He lives in Portland, Oregon, but makes some last minute travel arrangements to attend the show. But he is not prepared for what happens during or after the concert, nor was he expecting to leave with the band as they make their way to the next venue on their itinerary.

In Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You, music blogger and Seattle playwright Scotto Moore tells a chilling tale where music is being used, and has run amok, the way that science and/or magic are used in other cautionary tales. Instead of secret laboratories and mad scientists, there are bands, music bloggers and the world of music criticism and fandom. Moore provides a window into a world most do not know or rarely think about, describing how intertwined music and social media have become and the networks of online “experts,” those who are “in the know” and always struggling to be the one credited with discovering the next great singer or band. This is a fascinating arena within which to tell the story, and Moore is clearly familiar with it and able to convey its intricacies and extremes. Moore also  highlights how focusing your life so intently online can leave one completely unprepared for things happening in the “real” world.

The writing is crisp and the action is, once started, non-stop. The situations Moore describes are frighteningly believable. Music can be a powerful force and historically it has been used, for good or ill, in countless ways. The ideas he posits regarding the contemporary use of ritual music, with contemporary instruments and genres, are fascinating. The result is a quick, but satisfying, read that shifts from laugh out loud funny to more than a bit terrifying as it rushes to an ending that is a bit of a surprise. And it may cause you to pause, for just a moment, before you hit play on a new song by a band with which you are familiar.

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