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The Crack Magazine


From Blue to Black by Joel Lane

Novels about being in bands? A literary micro genre, probably because being in most bands is so bloody tedious. For every thirty-minute gig there are weeks and weeks when not much happens. Sure, there are gigs to arrange, weekly rehearsals to attend, songs to write and studio time to save up for but that’s about it. Or is it? There’s plenty of this kind of thing in Joel Lane’s reissued Blue to Black, but the real focus is on the rich seam of interpersonal relationships which either glue together or break apart, in the words of Mercury Rev, “bands those tricky plans, which never work out right”. Keeping everyone in a band happy and on the same musical page is an almost impossible business and not for the unemotionally intelligent: get it wrong and all musical roads eventually lead to someone muttering “musical differences” and either sulking (or seething) out of a soundcheck never to be seen again. Joel Lane gets this spot on but complicates this combustible situation still further by pitching protagonists, Karl and David, into an extremely complicated and edgy relationship. Can charismatic but vulnerable frontman, Karl, and bassist (and conscience of the band) David, really function together in band and bed?  Especially when drink, drugs and the pressures of the music biz are blurring reality and messing with their heads. Set mainly in the grim and grimy bits of suburban and urban Birmingham (the places left behind in central Birmingham’s first rush to blingy rebirth), From Blue to Black is a heart-breaking Heartlands classic. Totally recommended.

From Blue to Black – Joel Lane – publ. Influx Press - £9.99

Steven Long