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The International Writers Magazine: Review

Apathy for the Devil by Nick Kent
Faber £12.99
ISBN-13: 978-0571232857
Jordan Drury


NME alumni Kent’s seventies despatch depicts a tumultuous period; his initiation into a world in which rock writer Lester Bangs’ notoriety rivalled even the “big lips and collective aura of rampaging insolence” that was Rolling Stones circa 1964.

For a time, Kent drifted in a perilous, post-teen malaise between hanger-on and rock star, although the repudiation of his self-confessed ‘classical’ upbringing would surely brand him a reckless ‘emo’ by today’s standards. Certainly, from within these pages creeps a burgeoning sense of desperation, as Kent’s spiralling, tormented drug abuse coincides with an unlikely rise to fame and a chance to dine at the top table of rock royalty.

The linear, chronological chapters lend a simple charm to Kent’s ramblings, although one suspects that these might serve as convenient landmarks in the demanding rumination through his excesses. But Kent’s real success is in the portrayal of the most significant chrysalis in music in the seventies; his ode to punk provides perhaps a more substantial denouement to an otherwise simply entertaining collection of anecdote.

For the most part, Kent’s dope-nose recollections hit home, and he’s at his best when exhibiting mischievous criminal behaviour and revealing quite possibly the most unlikely line in musical memoir when he states that Bowie would rather Iggy Pop didn’t keep getting his tackle out quite so much. In its strong sections, Apathy for the Devil reads like a whimsical account of a man committed to keeping up with the Stones, whose grasp of colloquial epithets conjures images in only the way the phrase ‘Myra Hindley-esque’ can. A protracted romantic interlude with Chrissie Hynde just about veers from the mawkish to deliver one of the more poignant segments of the book, but sadly feels as though the thirty years reflection has produced a suspicious halcyon glow. His more engaging tales therefore become all the more credible for their brutality and grit, culminating in a savage chain-whipping at the hands of Sid Vicious, no less, but then there must be room for light and dark.

In weaker segments, Kent’s unwavering scrutiny on the arduous, druggie tween years becomes jarring and nonspecific. Interchangeable squatters surface from time to time to borrow a couple of quid or threaten him with something but it feels indiscriminate to his particular odyssey. It’s as though he set out to write not his Bildungsroman, but a Bildungsroman. However, his commitment to narration is utterly compelling, with convincing yarns concerning his hand in the creation of the Sex Pistols and a telling contribution to the amelioration of NME magazine in their formative existence providing enough dirt from which to vindicate his generous blurb.

His retrospective conclusion is one of redemption and ultimately a satisfying one, although the somewhat ill-advised discography provides a needless addendum to a thoroughly enjoyable journey. 
© Jordan Drury July 2010

Jordan is currently writing a rock novel

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