Memorial Device’s big break came in 1986 when Sonic Youth requested them as opener for their U.K. tour. Unfortunately, the experimental Scottish post-punk band had already broken up. On the upside, this near-miss preserved Memorial Device’s status as unsung heroes in the dying Glasgow suburb of Airdrie, and the memories of the scenesters in this fictional oral history have remained vivid. The first-person accounts have a gravity that’ll ring true to anyone who had an epiphany the first time they saw some local kids making feedback onstage.
The local scenesters are all here. The older guy with the good drugs and better records. The sexy, sad couple with the noise band. The hanger-on whose invisibility is wearing on him. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that every one of these small-town misfits is so poetic, but it’s a pleasure to read and easily succeeds in conveying a little world that is universal in its specificity.
Author David Keenan is an accomplished music writer, and the man behind England’s Hidden Reverse, a biography of the scene around goth/industrial bands Coil, Current 93, and Nurse With Wound. In This Is Memorial Device, he applies his journalistic chops to an impressionistic oral history-style Rashomon that goes for the heart, telling a story that’s as much Please Kill Me as it is A Brief History of Seven Killings. This Is Memorial Device should please record geeks looking to branch out from punk history books, and bookworms with a soft spot for music and a love for narrative voice. –Chris Terry (Faber & Faber)