Love the fookin’ alt music

The Alternative Hero

Clive Beresford is a 30-something with a life like a never-ending rock concert. He spends most of his time in mosh pits drenched in miscellaneous bodily fluids (most of which probably aren’t even his), listening to his favorite Thieving Magpies songs and refilling the pint of booze that has become a fixture permanently secured to his hand. Sure, his girlfriend may have dumped him, he may have a bit of a drinking problem and a whole bunch of goths have threatened to kick his indie ass, but Clive’s got his music and his dreams. That’s all he needs.

A failed fanzine writer, Clive’s obsession with music is the only thing he really takes seriously. The music snob once turned down a night of raucous lovemaking because he thought listening to Coldplay’s “Fix You” while getting it on was completely unacceptable. However, there is one person that Clive has loved more than any woman and who remains a stable force in his debacle of a life: Lance Webster, troubled frontman of the now-defunct band Thieving Magpies. Webster essentially self-detonated and intentionally destroyed his multimillion-record-selling career in a single gig, leaving Clive heartbroken and searching for answers.

Some miracle happens in which Clive’s AWOL rock idol apparently lives down the street from him, and Clive is pleased to discover that he wasn’t just having drunken hallucinations. He insists he’s not “stalking” the star, but simply trying every imaginable way to get an interview with his beloved rock idol in hopes of salvaging the remnants of his legacy in the music world. Oh, and said interview would really help make Clive’s dreams of becoming a legitimate music journalist a reality.

Among the many lessons learned, Clive discovers that it’s not a good idea to mess with devoted roadies and that even though goth kids seem relatively unresponsive at first, egging them on at music festivals is a sure way to get a sea of black-clad Bauhaus fans to beat the living crap out of you. Not hesitant to boast his extensive alt-music knowledge, Clive even devises a checklist that would allow someone to accurately identify a musician or band as an alternative act. For example, if the band possesses an ironic and self-effacing attitude, publicly denounces mainstream pop music and excessively uses cliché references to love, then it is to be considered “alternative.”

Eventually, Clive gets closer to his dreams than ever before; he’s also closer to the reality that sometimes the show really mustn’t go on. The awareness that there’s something seriously wrong with knowing—and caring—more about your rock idol’s life than your own finally comes. In a finale that’s too good to be true, considering how littered the alt-news industry is with guys like him, Clive finds it within himself to lighten up on the booze a bit, stop borrowing money from his mom and maybe even consider a real job.

The Alternative Hero might accurately be described as a “for the love of god, act your age” rather than a coming-of-age novel that will warm the cockles of your alternative-music-loving heart. Clive’s decisions are cringeworthy, but his intentions seem pure enough that you can’t help but love him.

Author Tim Thornton makes British slang seem ridiculously cool, leaving readers with the strange urge to talk like a hip Englishman and go around calling folks “fookin’ arseholes.” Thornton, who has a clear hatred for the band Oasis, does a magnificent job in crafting the perfect blend of humor, alternative-music trivia and flat-out awesomeness in his first novel.