This inventive first novel deflates the same myths of rock and roll that it glorifies in a vivid exploration of pop culture and the shattered society that emerged from the 1980s.
Hi-Fi, a third-rate New York bar band, plays another in a desultory series of low-paying gigs as Reagan’s inaugural speech drones from a TV in the background. Equipment falters, band members flex their egos, and the regular crowd shifts from boredom to borderline violence. What begins as an inauspicious account of a typical evening at a nightclub soon gives way to a stupefying catalog of trivia about Hi-Fi, the band with the “suburb sound and the suburb feel.”
A kaleidoscopic series of narrative tracks duplicate the layered effect of the music recording process as a virtuosic “solo” by a glibly omniscient but contemptuous “author” faces off with the wildly paradoxical testimony of nine different witnesses to the band’s infamous affairs. Hi-Fi’s tepid beginnings on Manhattan’s Lower East Side lead to a suspect rise to fame, baffling a would-be biographer as he looks back from his 1990s vantage point.
Gradually the events of the Inauguration Night performance expose varying degrees of madness, greed, violence and despair—an omen of the era to come. By turns reverently faithful to and highly parodic of both rock and roll and literary modernism, Sound on Sound investigates the cynical business of creating myths and hype, cracking the bulletproof glass of our media-generated culture.