Heard in the Hand: A Review of John Riordan’s Sound and Vision – A Guide to Music’s Cult Artists




For those of you bored of hearing of the decline of modern music and the means to receive it, John Riordan’s new book of band listings and biographies is a exuberant reminder of the voices, songs and bands that really mattered. Newly published by Dog and Bone, Riordan’s concise containments of the artists of offer, along with his colourful and playful illustrations make this book the perfect gift for the young player who’s personal zoo of reference stretches no further back than the Arctic Monkeys. Here Patti and the Salford Smiths rub shoulders with Devo and The Ramones, while Tom Waits gargles and Harry Parches in the background. The Buzz cocks shave the whiskers of the old asunder as the Pixies magic their way free from grunge to attain a higher noise fed glory. Kraftwerk sit alongside Chic and even Spinal Tap are given equal billing. Riordan is clearly concerned with the name changers and there is something uncanny and delightful in his drawing style, making these players of one story, from the sainted (to me at the very least) Kate Bush to Run DMC all the way down to John Grant and Kendrick Lamar. Here are musicians whose writing has inspired Riordan to celebrate them with a vision of their own. Cartoons breed ownership. We align ourselves with them as children and when encountering them as adults obsess or collect them, in terms of comics, graphic novels of emblems of enthusiasm. Riordan’s rich visuals show how illustration of this sort is a short hand for enthusiasm and how each artist, from Funkadelic to Primal Scream exists in a box and caption of their own making. They are the unimpeachable ones, able to resist all challenges, changes and compromises, either by remaining a part of their time (The Sex Pistols, The New York Dolls), reflecting it, (Bon Iver, Elbow), or moving through it, unconcerned with anything else other than their own imperatives (Nick Cave, Joanna Newsome, Beck, The Flaming Lips). Everyone you would want to read about is here and Riordan’s text is as concise as it is informative, a fine example being Riordan’s telling us in the trivia box of his Aphex Twin entry on video director Chris Cunningham’s predilection for Robot porn.


The book is a beautiful object in all senses of the word (and drawing) being 160 hardbacked pages of attractive image and text that would excite and appeal to the uninformed. It is also a happy companion of the New Waver of a certain age, as it provides a musical scrapbook for a once challenging youth, in which every trip to the now defunct Our Price retail chain or still surviving HMV yielded yet greater glory. In this grave stained year of loss across the arts, John Riordan’s beautiful book is a totem and token of the music that roared and rechallenged the day. There was a time when artists did not seek to build their careers on the cake of celebrity. They took their nourishment from deeper waters. In this vibrant and colourful book, author and illustrator allows those somewhat neglected springs to rise and recolour the faded earth. Seek out this book if you desire the sound and vision of a fresh library of souls. They will be felt and be heard in your hand.

David Erdos 24/10/16






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