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Friday, February 15, 2008

John McFarland's Review of Rock On

Rock On

Dan Kennedy had been crazy for rock 'n' roll since he was four years old, and no sooner could he sing along to "Stairway to Heaven" than he had settled on Led Zeppelin as his favorite band. So when the record label that represents Led Zeppelin years later offered Kennedy a position in its marketing department, was he going to decline? No way! He was so there, he was on it, he was golden. Wasn't this opportunity the dream job for Kennedy? Wouldn't the gig be totallyawesome

Chapter titles like "The Donnas Sing Songs about Sex in Cars" telegraph Kennedy's initial mad love for the zaniness of his new job in this mordantly funny look at the inner workings of today's music industry. Intoxicated by the proximity to the careers of rock 'n' roll gods, Kennedy delivers riotous anecdotes about his out-of-control office and tops himself again and again with zingers like, "God, this must be what women feel when they're dating a songwriter." 

Though this romance had to be too hot not to cool down, Kennedy kept his sense of humor after the thrill was gone. When the appeal of a group the company has recently signed to a contract escapes him by a mile, he cagily avoids condemning their talent outright but wryly notes, "First of all, I don't understand the band called Darkness." If the new talents he was called upon to promote fell woefully short and are good for a chuckle, his co-workers provide classic material for screwball comedy: instead of being terminally hip and related to rock royalty, as Kennedy had dreamed, they were petty tyrants, delusional wackos and arrogant wunderkinds with PowerPoint presentations that nobody understands. It's all too beautiful. 

As things begin to go south, Kennedy's chapter titles of "Hellhounds in God's Country" and "How to Plan a Bloodbath" forecast extremely stormy weather. Sardonic and snarky, Kennedy makes his stories of devolving energy among the troops and the coming wipeout hilarious. Out of the 100 one-liners that made me laugh out loud, my fave is: "Yes, we see that you've got the newest BlackBerry. Now. Put. It. Down." Others who have endured corporate meetings that border on waterboarding may nominate "Eyes glaze over. Terminology ricochets off the walls." as their Number One selection. Told with so much verve and sass, these boisterous tales of toxic office life offer some serious new competition for David Sedaris.--John McFarland 
For more reviews from John McFarland and others check out this cool website, ShelfAware