This Damned Band by Paul Cornell

This is a hard one to review: I didn’t enjoy reading any of it and thought it was a hot mess. But there are touches of cleverness (both in story and illustrations) that make it so hard to rate this low. The characters are thoroughly unlikable, the story jumpy/feeling so random in so many places, and the art is all over the place. I should have been the perfect audience for this and so I have to admit to some disappointment.

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Story: A very “Led Zeppelin” type of archetype 1970s rock band is the subject of a documentary. But during the filming, it is becoming increasingly obvious that something disturbing is going on beyond the sex, drugs, and rock and roll. With the aid of their groupies, the band will stumble upon a satanic plot – one involving someone in their midst.

As straightforward as the plot summary sounds, the story is anything but; it meanders around very stupid people doing very stupid over-the-top pointless things. From the Lemmy guitarist to the Robert Plant lead singer – they are all a bunch of complete idiots doing really pathetic things. And therein lies the problem since all are caricatures of archetypes of the era. From the ‘fat cat’ band manager to the over-sexed bassist, hippie and earth mother roadies, and clueless documentary crew. Everything is too nebulously defined to really gel or make the story interesting. Not one piece of this felt authentic.

The art, though inconsistent, is brilliant in places and sub-Bazooka gum comics in others. The scenes capturing drugged stupor hallucinations especially fell flat; a disappointment considering the fantastic depictions of band posters that really capture the era beautifully. The unevenness (some character designs were spot on and others questionable) really exacerbated the story and plot issues.

Monty Python (which is even referenced in the book) made stupid funny. Not so much here – stupid is just stupid and we don’t have a lot of reason to follow these oafish louts. If anything, one kinda began to hope that Satan would hurry up and end them sooner rather than later and spare the read. I know that sounds mean but I honestly felt that way after the first 25%.

As an era piece, it is quirky and there are some hidden gems. But I can’t say it was worth slogging through the entire book to get to them. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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