Monday, April 20, 2015

REVIEW: JIM GUTHRIE: WHO NEEDS WHAT


“I’m not a very good writer,” said Andrew Hood when I interviewed him back in February. Having read Jim Guthrie: Who Needs What, his new title for Invisible Publishing, I can safely say, with all due respect for Mr. Hood, that that is one fat load of bullshit. Andrew Hood's sentences spark and snap like firecrackers and Jim Guthrie: Who Needs What is an invigorating slice of local history that everyone with a vested interest in Guelph’s musical landscape past, present, and future should read.

Hood honed his chops with two raunchy and poignant collections of stories about beautiful (or maybe not so beautiful) losers bumming around small Canadian towns, 2007’s Pardon Our Monsters and 2012’s The Cloaca. In Who Needs What, he makes the leap to book-length nonfiction with the tale of a beautiful loser who made it big: game-changing Guelph musician Jim Guthrie. Hardworking and humble, Guthrie cut his teeth in the nineties at the forefront of a fecund wave of lo-fi “home rock,” refined his playing as the guitarist in the band Royal City, and moved to Toronto around the turn of the century after co-founding the legendary Three Gut Records. After releasing his 2003 album Now, More Than Ever, Guthrie struggled with writer’s block before eventually finding release and reward making music for video games, movies, and advertisements—his most recognizable ditty is the catchy Capital One jingle “Hands in My Pocket.”

Music lovers are lucky to have Hood behind the wheel. He’s no slouch as a critic, having sharpened his analytic acumen and breezy tone lately in countless movie reviews for the Bookshelf Cinema. With a demonstrated ear for preposterously perfect metaphors, Hood peppers his sentences with phrases that might be drawn from old Archie comics: references to baseball, “gas in the tank,” and love testers abound. For the most part, however, he takes a cue from his amiable subject and contents himself with the role of moderator. Much of this book’s compelling cloth is cut from conversations with Jim and his contemporaries — including Aaron Riches, Nathan Lawr, Owen Pallett, and many more — stitched together with Hood’s judicious prose. If you’re a recent Guelph import like myself, it’s an invaluable introduction to the city’s recent musical history. It’s not definitive or comprehensive by any means. Instead, it’s a bracing aperitif, whetting the appetite for the main dish: the music of Jim Guthrie, which you will either have the pleasure to discover for the first time or the pleasure of returning to with Hood’s considerable insights in mind. 


Will Wellington is the former editor in chief of Kaleidoscope magazine, co-founder of People House Theatre and contributor to Sequential Canadian Comics News and Culture and The Ontarion.

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