The literary landscape is littered with rock autobiographies. So many of them follow the same narrative, using same rags-to-riches-to-rags tropes that they tend to blend together, leaving programmatic readers like me (and perhaps like you) groping for the point. Any break from the tired formula is worth at least a cursory look. Imagine if—get this—a book was well-written and unconventional in its storytelling.
In The Tompo of the Ringing, Tracy Santa delivers on this promise with an engaging tale largely focused on his band 84 Rooms. If you’ve never heard of ’em before, you’re in good company: a quick check of Discogs finds their recorded output easily available for single-digit prices (plus postage). This isn’t a knock, of course. For most of us in the arts —music, writing, film, whatever—indifference is the harsh reality, working hard to create _________ before being ignored. But that’s only if you’re tracking the output of the art itself. The experiences around the record or the book or film can be more valuable than any second party listing. It’s this experiential ethos that makes The Tompo of the Ringing shine. Santa’s stories of various configurations of players coalescing and busting apart are relatable down to their bare-bones descriptions, a sad reflection of the reality of playing in bands: people come and go and are, more often than not, easy to forget. Success comes not only in stories but in proximity: to fame, to names, to success. Santa manages to find a French label to release 84 Rooms’ LP, gets some good reviews, seems to be gaining momentum, then the whole thing falls apart and Santa goes to grad school.
Through the strength of Santa’s observations and storytelling, The Tompo of the Ringing elevates the seemingly mundane to an engrossing, relatable tale of more valleys than peaks. –Michael T. Fournier (Rhyolite Press, rhyolitepress.com)