Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ’n’ Roll Group | Book review
Ian Svenonius dispenses helpful and hilarious band advice.
Ian Svenonius, music’s most manifesto-friendly frontman, has ostensibly crafted a how-to guide for would-be bands. The book offers advice on practical matters like naming your band, recruiting personnel and sex, but the answers range from the absurd to the sublime (never name bands after mammals; balance membership by Zodiac sign; practice abstinence). Svenonius also covers such diverse subjects as cocktail-party banter, van-lending etiquette and grassroots drug innovation. But one topic never mentioned is “pranks,” and pranking is clearly the book’s core subtext. It’s less clear, however, exactly what prank is being pulled, and who is the prankster.
Supernatural Strategies… is written in a deadpan tone that invokes academic jargon, conspiracy tracts and a schizophrenic genius’s ramblings, making it less straightforward than Rock for Dummies. The book’s otherworldly premise further complicates matters. Because living musicians fear competition too much to share secrets of success, this manual, we’re told, was transcribed during a séance where dead rock stars lectured on profound rock & roll truths. Mary Wells, spelling in spaghetti, and Buddy Holly, scrawling in salt, warned of cruel, social-engineering overlords that both control and fear rock revolutionaries.
But the greatest prank the book pulls is camouflaging, beneath astrological and geopolitical inanity, the author’s passionately conveyed truths about integrity, artistry, repression, perseverance and the cruelties and joys of the music industry. It seems that even when utilizing a stone-faced, pummeling, punch line–free tone, truths are still best told in jest. And it also seems rock & roll will never die, or if it does, it will still be accessible through spiritualism.