“amusing as all hell to read and really, just great writing” (Nighttimes)

There will always be that cool kid who lives to drop the names of some unheard band on their friends, maybe set the needle down on a scratchy vinyl disc, and enlighten the world to a long forgotten track that’s the epitome of rock, punk, soul or whatever. Lost in the Grooves is the Bible for that kid who’s out to save, or at least educate, the world. For the rest of us, though, Lost in the Grooves [Routledge] is just a good, fun read. In the introduction, called, Reconsider, Baby, we’re introduced to a group of passionate zinesters that see Lost in the Grooves as “a collection of miniature love letters to albums.” And that’s right-on. The voice of zines has always been one that’s a little more personal and experiential than those high-fallutin’, glossy, corporate publications. And face it, just like a rock and roll Stepford Wife, they look pretty–but without the rough edges, without the intensity and the feeling, they have no soul. Throughout the book, the Scram gang works hard to build amusing and solid cases to justify sometimes hard-to-believe albums, like Buckner and Garcia’s 1982 release, Pac-Man Fever [CBS Records]. One of the best of more than 75 writer/critics includes editor, Kim Cooper, who always adds a personal touch–things like, “I was a teenage Velvets freak who overplayed their records until they sounded like dishwater sloshing around the room.” Among the 250-some entries, a lot of these writers, like Brian Doherty, will take you right into the song-it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard it or not–because he gives it to you with full description, lyrics, and where and how to annunciate. It’s amusing as all hell to read and really, just great writing. There are even a couple reviews [Pere Ubu and The Tubes] by the famous novelist, Rick Moody, who’s been known to dabble in music from time to time. Lost in the Grooves hits on all kinds of music across all genres, and the thing is that even if, say, you don’t listen to country, you’re going to want to read the review for its entertainment value alone. It’s easy to pick up and put down without having to follow any story line, and hey, if you’re that kid who needs to be The Enlightened One: well, here you go. (J. Gordon, Nighttimes.com)

“intriguing” (Shepherd Express)

Lost-And Found: As countless new CDs continue to push existing music out of the racks and into the cutout bins, used stores and (gasp) even the trash, plenty of worthy albums get unjustly overlooked. In fact, pop-music history is littered with artists both famous and obscure whose work stands defiantly alone—too quirky, too unorthodox or just too demented to appeal to either a mainstream audience or even so-called fans. Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed (Routledge), edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay, sets out to right those wrongs by spotlighting more than 100 musicians whose art—and in some cases, careers—simply don’t slot neatly into any one category. With pithy, smartly written essays by contributors to Scram magazine, a self-acclaimed quarterly “journal of unpopular culture,” Lost in the Grooves is structured alphabetically in an encyclopedic format. That makes finding the Dream Lake Ukulele Band’s self-titled 1976 album just as easy as locating Terence Trent D’Arby’s 1993 Symphony or Damn. The Beach Boys, John Cale, Glen Campbell, Marvin Gaye, the Hollies, Jefferson Airplane, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Prince and Dwight Yoakam all get nods here; and fans of lo-fi garage rock, French avant-garde, roots rock, psycho folk, proto-punk, ’80s soul and bubblegum pop will all find something to discover within these 304 pages. Readers won’t, however, find many recent releases. Rather, Scram’s writers seem particularly partial to vintage children’s music (Flo & Eddie’s The World of Strawberry Shortcake and The Alvin Show by Alvin and the Chipmunks) and novelty records (Rock Fantasy, a concept album from K-Tel that explores animals’ psychological character traits; Chevrolet Sings of Safe Driving and You, a circa-1965 musical set of rules for new drivers performed by an outfit called the First Team; and The Wozard of Iz: An Electronic Odyssey by Mort Garson & Jacques Wilson). Many featured titles are only available on vinyl; indeed, part of this collection’s charm is the way writers call these albums “records,” not CDs, and make references to Side One and Side Two. Still, it would have been helpful for editors Cooper (who also edits Scram) and Smay (co-author of Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth: The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears) to indicate which titles eventually did make it to disc—even if they’re currently out of print. Interspersed throughout the book are intriguing sidebars that excerpt original record reviews from the likes of Creem and Flash, and compile such lists as the “Top 10 Non-Goth Albums Goths Listen To” (topped by Johnny Cash’s American IV: The Man Comes Around) and the “6 Greatest Midget Rock & Roll Records” (with Bushwick Bill’s Little Big Man topping the list). The book’s contributors, although keen on putting any given album and its artist into some sort of context, have a tendency to knock well-known critics who panned these records upon their initial release or to go over the top with their effusive praise. That said, this book does what any good music journalism should do: It makes readers want to seek out—or maybe, at least in a few cases, rediscover— some of the records that people who love records truly care about. As contributor Brian Doherty writes in his assessment of Loudon Wainwright III’s 2001 album, Last Man on Earth: “Discovering it … makes you wonder what else everyone is missing.” (Michael Popke, Shepherd Express)

“whimsical” (Real Travel Adventures)

This could be considered both the anthology and encyclopedia of the not-so-popular music scene. Written in clever, whimsical, tongue in cheek style, the book is a wealth of trivia and facts about hundreds of albums and singles which never made the Top Ten or Hit Parade in the last forty-plus years, some by obscure artists and some non-hits by well-known artists. Because of the alphabetical arrangement of the numerous reviews the juxtaposition of the aritists, styles, and genre of the music is outrageously interesting in itself! For anyone who ever shoved nickles into a Juke Box, any music lover of any kind, and any pop-culture enthusiast, this book Rocks! Tom Neely’s delightful cover design, illustrations, and caricatures of some of the artists will delight any reader. (Real Travel Adventures)

“championing the underdog even when he turns out to be Paul McCartney” (Jambands)

… A month or two after I finished Kill Your Idols, I discovered another recent book, Lost in the Grooves (edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay), almost by accident. If upending the rock canon is a worthy goal, this book has the approach I like: positive, off center, championing the underdog even when he turns out to be Paul McCartney. The book is a series of capsule reviews of uncelebrated favorites, and although the pick with which I agree most, Spirit’s Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, isn’t all that obscure (it went gold, after all), more than half of the book is stuff I’ve never heard of at all. There’s a bit of the anti-canon thing – Jim O’Rourke writes that he’d rather hear about Sparks’s Propaganda than Pet Sounds, but, to balance that out, I can’t help being amused by O’Rourke’s comment that "Propaganda is the standard to which I hold myself and everything else." (Imaginary dialogue: "Well, Jeff, I guess A Ghost Is Born is shaping up pretty well. But it’s no Propaganda.")… (Patrick Buzby, Jambands.com)

“20 new things to be learned on every page” (Electric Review)

Scram magazine, housed in Los Angeles, California, pays homage to all the players too eccentric or obscure or off-beat to find a home in the Madison Avenue media machine. Scram is truly a resource for those musicians just outside the windows of top-forty-land, those songwriters and guitar slingers looking for an outlet for their own particular brand of art. Accordingly, Lost in the Grooves takes up where Scram leaves off — a compilation of ruminations from 75 critics and music aficionados detailing their favorite slices of the scene: "Jandek is a flat-out weirdo. No one knows who he is, and the guy is either making up his own chords or just doesn’t care how his guitar is tuned. Jadek is like an alien trying to play music after hearing it described to him once. Blind Corpse is his masterpiece…His lyrics reveal a man suffering from a pain so oblique that the listener must simply allow him to revel in his misery. Jadek doesn’t need us for comfort…" (Hayden Childs — Page 120) These little known stories about the sometimes shadowy figures of the music world are a hoot to discover; more than anything, this book is like picking an old Rolling Stone and reading for the pure enjoyment of the ride. However, Lost is important for another reason: as a diary of the hidden streets of the American Music scene, the pieces come together to give true historical perspective to the influences behind the echoes shedding light on the faces behind the old ghosts. Just as much as all the big-time dollar bands, these unknowns serve to bring shape and continuity to the history of our sound: "Forget the hilarious GTOs. Forget even the mighty Shaggs. Suckdog captures adolescent female adrenaline-fueled angst and aggression like no recording artist I’ve heard before or since. This is not a record for the squeamish…" (Russ Foster — Page 228) Lost in the Grooves is not a book for fans mad about one band or one particular singer. Instead, this is a book for the serious music fan, for those serious students of the art form curious about who-influenced-who and what sound rose out of what region. Like turning on a radio station and listening to a feverish wounded-voiced DJ tell you the reason behind every record you never heard, there’s 20 new things to be learned on every page here. Recommended to all libraries in the public sector and at the college level as general reference text. Also will appeal to serious music fans of all generations – there’s some new stuff here for all tastes. & thanks to Routledge for perhaps forsaking pure commercial motive and releasing an invaluable teaching tool. (John Aiello, The Electric Review, March/April 2005)

“recalls Creem Magazine at its most prickly” (Eye Weekly)

"To point out that the staff at your local indie record store are about as tightly wound and implacable as the Taliban has already become a cliché. In contrast to that stalwart stance, Scram Magazine has become known for a distinct lack of smugness while digging through the dollar bins of history. Most pop-storians are obsessed with the failed, marginal and forgotten. Scram understands that the successful, populist and forgotten can be just as mysterious, and in this collection of reviews and essays, you’ll never be scorned by a pale, weedy boy for liking Terence Trent D’arby. In fact, its writers (including star nerds Jim O’Rourke and Rick Moody) will encourage you on in your bold and (un)original taste. If hipsterism is a temple built on Big Star and Stooges box sets, then Lost in the Grooves aims to tear down the walls with the clarion call of Kylie Minogue. Pop, after all, is about being popular, and if you want to understand popular culture, why waste time with Captain Beefheart when you can reassess Poco? Yes, the forgotten sons of California rock get multiple mentions here. But calling for a Poco revival isn’t the boldest thing in this book by far. Moody will have you reconsidering The Tubes, and Kris Kendall rights the wrongs dealt to the Dream Warriors by both industry and history. Unlike some music writing, these reviews are carefully written — as opposed to sounding like rewritten press releases — and recall Creem Magazine at its most prickly and acid. Should the comparison not be apparent to the reader, excerpts from Creem are reprinted, wink-and-nod-like, throughout its pages. Walk away right now and go back to your mid-period Sonic Youth records if you think this is irony. Lost in the Grooves is as sincere as disco and just as satisfying, providing a final home for music — from The Auteurs to Aaron Carter — that only wanted to be loved. Maybe that’s the pop difference; music that isn’t too cool to say "I love you." Do you have the balls to say it back? (Brian Joseph Davis, Eye Weekly, 12/02/04)

“nothing against Christgau” (Washington City Paper)

Cashews Get Their Due: George Pelecanos is somewhat taken aback when asked to talk about his contribution to Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed. “I got an e-mail from my agent a couple years ago,” says the Silver Spring–Êbased writer. Scram, a magazine “dedicated to rooting out the cashews in the bridge mix of unpopular culture,” wanted him to write a piece about underappreciated music. “I just sent it. I never talked to them or anything,” he says. “Then this book shows up.” Lost in the Grooves compiles essays—sometimes of just a few lines—about perennial critics’ darlings (the Go-Betweens’ 16 Lovers Lane), odd faves of odd people (Vivian Stanshall’s Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead), albums you weren’t supposed to like (Alvin and the Chipmunks’ The Alvin Show), and whatever else its writers—including locals Ken Barnes (USA Today, ’70s zines Flash and Fusion), and Vern Stoltz (Cannot Be Obsolete) and Memphis, Tenn.–based Washington City Paper contributor Andrew Earles—favor. Pelecanos wrote about Curtis Mayfield’s 1973 Curtom release Back to the World. “I just picked a record that I thought was really underappreciated in its category, especially coming after Superfly.” The overlooked disc “was of a time when people were making records that were sort of thematic,” says Pelecanos, and it’s easy to see why the crime novelist and story editor of HBO’s The Wire would relate to lines like these: “In these city streets—everywhere/You got to be careful/Where you move your feet, and how you part your hair.” Pelecanos’ review ends with a shot at the dean of rock critics: “Robert Christgau gave this a ‘C.’ Another reason, in my opinion, to check it out.” Pelecanos is quick to point out that he has nothing against Christgau, but, he says, “I object to that kind of criticism…. A guy, or a woman, sits in a dark room for a year and writes a book, and then someone blows it off with a D-minus or whatever.” Pelecanos’ appreciation for music is almost as well-known as his novels, which chronicle a Washington far from filibusters and presidential coronations. The “tour music” section of his Web site offers a playlist much like that in Lost in the Grooves: When he hits the road to promote his new book, Drama City, in March, his CD wallet will be stocked with Slobberbone, Lalo Schifrin, the Isley Brothers, Iron + Wine, War, and Graham Parker. And his previous novel, Hard Revolution, featured a “soundtrack” CD given away at readings. Next for Pelecanos, besides the book tour, is news on whether The Wire will be picked up for a fourth season. The future of the drama may be grim, given HBO Chair Chris Albrecht’s quip that “I have received a telegram from every viewer of The Wire—all 250 of them.” Perhaps Scram should cover unpopular TV in its next book. (Pamela Murray Winters, Washington City Paper, 2/11/05)