chris bookFaith and Practice in Bedlam
By Chris Masuak
(High Voltage)

The rock and roll biography, usually ghost written within an inch of near life, seldom rises above the squalor of tabloids in terms of literary merit. A chronological narrative structure occasionally framed as a flashback is as good as it gets.

Think of sports biographies with guitars.

Unsurprisingly, reviews of Chris Masuak's new book have been thin on the ground. Firstly, because the book will probably upset his old band mates and their wrath has become legendary.

Secondly, I suspect, because - like its author - this book is quite the odd duck.

When confronted by the unusual, most pundits wait for someone else's opinion before voicing their own. Especially when they don't want to miss out on the chance of potential support slots.

On first inspection, this book was much more 'beat' than I expected. Non linear staccato blasts with little or no support for the uninitiated. It plays to a jazz score.

Real names have been abandoned to protect the guilty. Visitors to this Web site will probably have enough back knowledge to make educated guesses as to the who's who. That said, there are points where I couldn't be certain of those secret identities.

There are points where I'd rather not know those secret identities.

But, in a way, aren't all stories really about an archetype? Aren't characters a product of their milieu?

Often, when reading a musical memoir, musicians complain that they were there and deserve a mention. This is a book of monsters. Be grateful if you do not recognise yourself.

But make no mistake, although the friend and not completely humbled narrator of this tome may be more sinned against than sinning, he often reveals his own monstrosity. He slouches away from Bethlehem, if not one step forward to each step backwards then there remains at least three quarters of a step of backwards slide.

This is a tale of pursuit of redemption rather than redemption itself. But much like Faust, there is every chance the author would abandon all progress for another shot at Helen of Troy.

Now, I said my first impression was of 'beat'. As I moved onwards, other impressions became more apparent.

This book is made up of 145 tiny chapters, some as brief as two unrhyming couplets.

The effect is one that combines mystic text and parables with a long night of telling tales over copious oversized shots. It sneaks its poignant moments up on you. It reveals the author's heart.

It's not perfect. It could have probably done with another draft. Chris is so fond of a couple of his observations that he uses them more than once and those unfortunate barbs are usually directional.

There is all the dirt and spite that one expects in cautionary tales such as this but there is as well that desire for redemption, peace and understanding. It is a book that is neither entirely about retribution nor compassion. It is a hard walked path.

I'm not sure forgiveness is on the list of aims within the text but there is an obvious desire to rise above through understanding.

Obviously, a hornet's nest has been kicked but that's a nest that was kicked long ago. Some will gloat, some will sneer and some will rage.

So, gentle reader, should I recommend you this volume? Well, it perhaps stands better with a little fore knowledge but, even without that, it presents as a fascinating view of Australian rock and roll culture over a period where young people grew up without the firm footing of established culture.

It has all the horror of its time.

You should read it. (Unless you are one of the subjects of it!). It has an honesty and, despite allusions to spirituality and literary reference, it most importantly lacks pretention.

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