The Smiths' 1985 album, Meat Is Murder, can be appreciated at any age but something about its tongue-in-cheek cheeriness and lilting melancholy profoundly speaks to the teenage experience. Rather than examining the album through a historical or critical lens, musician Joe Pernice explores this aspect of the music's power, its beautifully haunting nostalgia, through the story of a catholic high school outsider in 1985 Massachusetts dealing with love, a friend's suicide, and the pains of youth. Likely drawing on Pernice's own youth and relationship to the album it helps the boy through his discontent. Actor Neal Huff performs the audio with a natural comfort and aptitude for storytelling that feels like the grown character nonchalantly recounting his own memoirs.
A Catholic high school near Boston in 1985. A time of suicides, gymnasium humiliations, smoking for beginners, asthma attacks, and incendiary teenage infatuations. Infatuations with a girl (Allison), with a band (The Smiths) and with an album, Meat is Murder, that was so raw, so vivid and so melodic that you could cling to it life a lifeboat in a storm.
Joe Pernice is the singer and songwriter for The Pernice Brothers. Their most recent album is called Yours, Mine and Ours. He has published a book of poetry. This is his first work of fiction.
33 1/3 is a new series of short books about critically acclaimed and much-loved albums of the last 40 years. Focusing on one album rather than an artist's entire output, the books dispense with the standard biographical background that fans know already, and cut to the heart of the music on each album. The authors provide fresh, original perspectives - often through their access to and relationships with the key figures involved in the recording of these albums. By turns obsessive, passionate, creative, and informed, the books in this series demonstrate many different ways of writing about music.
Rock on: listen to more of the 33 1/3 series.
©2003 Joe Pernice; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.
"Full of mordant wit and real heartache. A dead-on depiction of what it feels like when pop music articulates your pain with an elegance you could never hope to muster. "Meat is Murder" does a brilliant job of capturing how, in a world that doesn't care, listening to your favorite album can save your life." (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
"Pernice hits his mark. The well-developed sense of character, plot and pacing shows that he has serious promise as a novelist. His emotionally precise imagery can be bluntly, chillingly personal." (The Boston Weekly Dig)
This book is called the "black sheep" of the 33 1/3 series (the rest of the books are about the making of the title albums) but often times the black sheep can be the most interesting.
Meat is Murder is a narrative about figuring out relationships, death, high school, friendship, and music in 1985. Joe Pernice paints a really accurate picture of the kind of kid who would listen to Meat is Murder when it first came out. Any fans of indie music in the 80's would definitely appreciate the story. The audiobook is read by Neal Huff, who I know from watching The Wire. His narration is convincing (I think he's about the right age to read for the main character) and gives the characters depth without taking away from the underlying narrative about the album.
As opposed to other "33 1/3" books, this one is not primarily about "Meat Is Murder," but instead is the author's tale of high school angst, with the LP playing only a supporting / inspirational role. There is no background information on the making of the LP, just a sprinkling of the author's thoughts on the songs.
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