Music News

Stuck Outside Phoenix

It's no secret that nostalgia is a powerful reason rock 'n' roll has so much influence on its fans -- you remember the hand-me-down, 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra you were riding in, who was driving and what you were smoking the first time you heard Sabbath's "Paranoid." You always will.

It's also no surprise that former Refreshments bassist Arthur Edwards - a.k.a. Buddy -- relies on nostalgic passage after nostalgic passage in his self-published rock 'n' roll novella Stuck Outside Phoenix to describe the Tempe music scene during the early '90s and to move his largely autobiographical story forward.

In this book, everything from the detritus stacked in a Circle K to the smell of stale beer emanating from a friend's partied-out carpet is romanticized. Iconic pop culture reference points such as Star Wars and the video game Galaga are dropped into the novella and provide footholds for fellow Gen-Xers. They also help define the book's protagonist, Hote.

Hote is first a romantic, and second a bass player trying to escape Tempe. It's a worthy subject. Even though Phoenix is one of the largest cities in the country, it has a small-town feel, and many have found it difficult to break loose from the city's parochial grip. If Edwards' use of pop nostalgia limits his audience, his romanticizing of wanderlust opens the novella up again to a larger readership. The clubs, restaurants, people and avenues Hote is trying to escape become every town's clubs, restaurants and avenues.

If you were part of the Phoenix music scene in the early '90s, this book will be a nostalgic stroll down Mill Avenue. The names have been changed to protect the egomaniacal, but they're disguised thinly enough that anyone familiar with the scene during the Refreshments' tenure will easily put faces and names to the personalities inhabiting the story.

The transition from pop musician to writer can't be an easy one. The days of creating a "work of art" in an afternoon are gone and hundreds of afternoons filled with labor-intensive writing and rewriting take their place. Song lyrics are rarely powerful enough to stand on their own without music acting as a buttress to the often banal lyrics. Ironically, one important thing Stuck Outside Phoenix lacks is music. It needs more rhythm and cadence for it to break free from the page's overbearing silence. It lacks the narrative soundtrack all stories depend on: depth.

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Mike Cryer