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posted March 14, 2007
First Second, paperback, 128 pages, April 2007, $16.95
I imagine there will be two common reactions to Gipi's First Second release Garage Band
. The first will be to relate some story of the reviewer being in a rock and roll band, or less exact memories of a local scene, or even direct memories of a practice space for those more deeply involved. The second will be to note the artist's lovely, casual mastery -- his lean and strangely unattractive figures, or the idiosyncratic apartment spaces and landscapes in which the characters move. Nothing wrong with that: I was in a band in high school as well, and we practiced in a garage and one or two odder spaces, just like these kids. Certainly Gipi's book nails the thin line that exists between ascribing self-importance to simply wasting one's time and the moments of out of body transcendence that can grace any effort to which one is wholly committed. And Gipi's book is routinely beautiful, both in depicting the youthful physicality of the band's members and their various interrelationships with curious or suspicious adults.
What made Garage Band
interesting enough for me to recommend it is how many ways the experience depicted is different than that common to American kids. A kid with a Nazi fixation brings with him a different feeling simply for the European setting, and there's a greater sense that the window opened here is tiny and the opportunities awaiting them more harsh -- this isn't something they're going to do on the weekends when they're in their 30s, like you might see here in the U.S. These aren't kids who are going to have MySpace pages or cut an album 20 years from now after calling in some favors. Even the aforementioned outside relationships seem less American to me: the dependency comes across harsher but the emotional involvement reads as more distracted than what you might see from American parents, parents driven by culture to exude a certain youthfulness itself. If you keep your wits about you and your eyes open to the book's thousand points of departure yet underlying, common sympathy, Garage Band
ends up a comics novella worth listening to.