Today I am really excited to bring you a guest post from Tom Becker the author of Dark Room. This book is not for the easily scared…it is pretty damn frightening! Dark Room is part of the Red Eye series which are a set of horror/thriller novels for Young Adults and they have all been amazing so far!
I am going to review this book very soon, on my YouTube channel. I have a lot I want to say about it so can’t wait to film it! I will link the video in this post when I’ve managed to film and upload! But, for now, here is Tom talking about music and writing…
“Hey, if you like that, you should try X-Ray Spex. Poly Styrene is, like, the First Lady of punk. No, screw that, she’s the president of punk.”
(Sasha Haas, Dark Room)
As a rule, I’m a bit wary of authors writing about music. I like my music fast and I like my music loud. I want it to give me an instant rush, a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. Up against a sheer blast of pure noise, words can seem a bit… weedy in comparison. I’ve never been interested in reading thoughtful essays on Bob Dylan. If I was looking for some kind of blithe, blog-style generalization to sum it up, I’d say that books make me think, music makes me feel.
At the same time, I’ve always been aware of an inspirational exchange between music and words – a kind of cross-pollination, if you like. A couple of years ago I wrote a play called Until The Last Light Fades that owed a great debt to a song called Lost Coastlines by Okkervil River. The track had a dreamlike, elegiac feel to it that totally help set the mood in my head as I wrote about a drowning, dystopian world. The song that helped inspire my latest book, the blood-drenched horror Dark Room, is much shorter and sharper: Identity, by 70’s punk band X-Ray Spex.
Among the snarling, spitting angry young men of punk, X-Ray Spex stood out from the crowd – mostly thank to their frontwoman Poly Styrene, a striking, fearless teenager with a DayGlo wardrobe and braces on her teeth. In the opening seconds of her band’s very first single, Poly sneers that ‘some people think little girls should be seen and not heard’, before shouting back her reply:
‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours!’ She challenged the popular notions of what a female pop star should look and act like, shaving all her hair off around the time Identity was released as a single. Even though X-Ray Spex only produced an album and a handful of singles before splitting up, Poly’s legacy can still be heard in the Riot Grrrl bands of the 1990s and beyond.
Listening to Identity, I’m not really surprised. It might have been written over 30 years ago but its concerns about adolescent self-image and consumerist culture seem pretty bang-on and up-to-date to me – especially with regard to how young women are presented in the media, and how that affects other young women who view it. I tried to touch on that in Dark Room: there’s a reason why Darla’s disturbing visions come to her when she looks in the mirror. Tonally, there’s a vein of horror running through Identity’s lyrics, with its talk of screams and smashed glass and slashed wrists. And – crucially – it’s also a brilliant punk song, fast and furious in equal measure. Whenever I hear it now, I imagine Sasha Haas dancing in the aisles of Criminal Records, trying to drag a reluctant Darla to join her. Hopefully in time other Dark Room readers will feel the same.
Watch the video for ‘Identity’.
Thank you Tom for writing such a fab guest post!