A Bang, a Whimper and a Beat: Industrial Music and Dystopia by Karen Collins

A Bang, a Whimper and a Beat: Industrial Music and Dystopia  by Karen Collins ~ Completed February 10, 2015

A Bang, a Whimper and a Beat: Industrial Music and Dystopia by Karen Collins ~ Completed February 10, 2015

Industrial music is hard to define, so I really don't bother trying. (If you want to start a flame war on an industrial music forum, ask if Marilyn Manson counts as industrial music. Have your marshmallows on hand.) What I do know, however, is that I listen to it and it's a major part of my life. 

(My tattoos are based on songs from my favourite Nine Inch Nails album, The Downward Spiral. I don't really know if there's a larger expression of how important something is to you than getting it inked onto your skin. Three songs down, eleven to go.)

There are few things that make me happier than reading "academic" works about things that interest me, so finding the few books about industrial music (of which, I would say, Nine Inch Nails is a part) makes me giddy. And this book did not disappoint!

Not simply an attempt to define the genre, Collins' work discusses the intersections between industrial music as a genre and dystopia. I've got a musical background, so I was delighted to find that it goes into some depth about not only lyrical content but musical form. 

Industrial music isn't simply noise. First off, some is actually very lyrical. But the stuff that is noise is noise on purpose. No one can say that Skinny Puppy isn't exactly precise in the noise they enact on stage. Collins does a great job of framing this genre of music, that has meant so much to me over the years, in a way that brings it all together coherently under the guise of dystopia.

This work gives industrial music the attention it's due - it takes the noise and sees the value in it.


Character (50%): This is another example of seeing aspects of myself and my life in the work. There is no "main character," unless you count industrial music itself. Collins treats the music genre with as much care and detail as a fiction writer who lovingly describes the innermost thoughts of a beloved character. Industrial is a genre that is highly misunderstood, both by those who do not like it and by those within who like different aspects. You can tell that Collins truly loves the music for what it is and does not want to change it, and I feel that it is just as important to her life as it has been to mine.

Language (50%): This work represents a rare case wherein language is an appeal factor that resonates with me when reading a work. Unlike many fiction works that have a high language appeal, the language Collins uses isn't flowery or "literary" - it is dense and academic. I love reading academic works about things that are close to me, especially if they aren't in "normal" or "accepted" academic fields. It is the closest I come to the feeling of happily sighing while stroking a book (or the tablet, as the case may be!) lovingly. I like that Collins has taken a subject that is seen as counterculture, scary, and subversive, and given in the academic treatment. She takes it seriously. She recognizes that it is worthy of study, and I love reading the fruits of her academic labours.

This work does not have a driving narrative- or argument-based story focus, and there are no setting elements to speak of that contribute to its appeal to me.