It takes a certain something to be able to paint the decadent, morally dodgy rainbow world of contemporary music beige, but whatever that something is, author Bill Flanagan has buckets of it. Flanagan -- a periodicals writer and VH1 senior VP previously found between the covers droning about U2 --clearly knows the turf his maddeningly one-dimensional characters tread, sometimes to his detriment.
A&R follows charisma-free New York-based A&R schmuck Jim Cantone as he negotiates the vast corporate environs of the fictitious WorldWide imprint. Quite a daft one, our Jim, since he signs only one band in the course of the book and, despite being the A&R chief, fails to notice both the wrath of his jealous sidekick, Zoey -- decked out in full smug punk-rock caricature -- and the nasty quest for power being waged against the company's eccentric CEO by his trusty VP. Too busy listening to demos to sense a major coup, presumably.
We could forgive Flanagan his flat characters (so flat that the meant-to-be-climactic death of one is just ho-hum), sluggish plot, gratuitous band references and lack of insight into what makes A&R such a thrilling/terrifying gig if he rewarded us with juicy war stories. This, after all, is rock and roll. Where are the underage groupies, the hellaciously documented drug abuse, the dead gangstas?
Considering that myriad non-fiction books are filled to brimming with just that kind of readable stuff -- The Hit Men and Hammer Of The Gods, to name two -- Flanagan asks too much in exchange for too little. KIM HUGHES
A&R, by Bill Flanagan (Random House), 342 pages, $35.95 cloth. Rating: N
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