SOUND OF CERTAIN TROUBLE 


;I suppose every great book, fiction or not, has to include that black moment in the narrative, usually three- ;quarters of the way through, where the protagonist is at the end of his rope and the situation appears hopeless. For John Sellers, that moment became abundantly clear in his new musical memoir Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life, and it couldn't have arrived at a worse time.

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;He was shunned by a listserv.

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;No, not shunned. Deplored. Despised. Detested. And not just any listserv, either. It was Postal Blowfish, the official listserv of his all-time favorite band, Guided by Voices. The controversy began shortly after Sellers returned from the vacation of his life: meeting GBV frontman Robert Pollard in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, sharing a beer (or two, or 20) with the god of indie rock and hanging out for a Wednesday night drinking party at the Monument Club, aka Pollard's house.

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;Little did Sellers know he was digging a hole that was bottomless, to cruelly compare his decline to a triumphantly belted Pollard lyric. He'd told Pollard's people that the Dayton sojourn was undertaken as a fan (which he was), not as a writer (which he also was). When word broke that Sellers was penning a book partly about his GBV obsession and would therefore be profiting from his meeting with Pollard, listserv moderator Rich Turiel put him on the shit list. He'd violated Bob's trust.

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;The hard-core GBV cultists all but called for Sellers' head in a guillotine. One did, thanks to Photoshop, place Sellers' bespectacled, indie-geek head on the body of a porcine man in a Speedo.

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;"Whatever they said, I deserved it," he says in a recent phone interview. "In retrospect, I think it's hilarious. But at the time I wanted to cry. I was drinking myself to sleep a lot. I was out of the GBV circle. I couldn't get a word in. I couldn't write the Postal Blowfish people and make my case. Of course, I'm really stupid and read it all; I could have ignored it until the stuff passed over."

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Sellers may not get a perfect movie-script ending, but he'll get his shot at redemption, and you'll have to buy the book to read about it. Needless to say, sending the finished product off to Pollard and awaiting his response proved to be almost as nerve-wracking as his time at No. 1 on Postal Blowfish's Most Wanted list.

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;"Bob has definitely read the book," says Sellers. "He was not the first person to read it, but he was the most important person to read it. More than my mom. More than my editor. I was pretty much worried the entire time writing the GBV chapters about what he would think about it. I sent it to him probably three months ago. I waited for about a week and was dying the whole time. Then I got word through a friend of his that he liked it and was into it. It was the greatest thing ever. If nobody buys the book, that's all I really cared about."

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;Chances are, many will buy it — after all, the book jacket contains words of praise from such established alt-lit luminaries as Chuck Klosterman and John Hodgman.

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;And the writing inside isn't bad, either. Sellers opens the book with its most controversial line, "I hate Bob Dylan" (the result of his father's sonically abusive Dylan record-spinning and proselytizing during his childhood), and proceeds through every major musical crush of his life: from Duran Duran (guiltily, he admits in hindsight) to U2 to New Order to the Smiths to Pavement and finally Guided by Voices.

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;His prose is frequently derailed by his own footnotes, which are often just as enjoyable and enlightening as the story they're supporting, and sometimes take up more space. You'll find sidetracks and diversions within the footnotes themselves, as when he interrupts a log of his annual depressing "celebration" of Ian Curtis' birthday to talk about other alt-rock suicides that didn't move him as much.

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;Sellers writes like a musicologist one minute and a kid in a candy store the next, sounding every bit the rabid fanboy rambling about his obsessions — but in a good way. A contributor to Spin, GQ, The Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times and even a former questioner for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (his Pavement question never got on the air), Sellers' labor of love initially was rejected by most publishers but caught a break at Simon & Schuster, which was more open to alternative writing.

;;"They realized there were more indie rock fans than they thought," Sellers says. "They knew a certain amount of people would be interested in the idea even if they don't end up buying it. Also, the publisher of Simon & Schuster used to be at Rolling Stone, so he has a strong musical background. It seemed to work out. I got really lucky, and I'm thankful for it."

;;Because it's so GBV-centric, it would be easy to lump Perfect From Now On in with what seems to be a growing movement of books appreciating a band most people have never heard of. There was Jim Greer's mediocre 2005 biography, for instance, and the recently released 33 1/3 book Bee Thousand, which pays tribute to the group's seminal 1994 record. But Sellers sees the distinction.

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;"I think there was a book out there waiting to be written for something like this," he says. "There have been things written from a critical or insider's perspective, but one of the great parts about liking GBV, and a whole lot of music for that matter, is what it's like to be a fan. And with GBV, there's so much music for the obsessed fan."

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;Sellers has no qualms admitting that he heard about all of his favorite bands, even GBV, from people obviously cooler than he was, thus dispelling the hipper-than-thou indie music tenet that you can't be truly indie unless you were listening to This Mortal Coil when you were exiting the womb. But he has his share of dirty secrets you won't get from Perfect From Now On — when pressed, he'll confess to owning a Bob Dylan album.

;;"I've come to accept that he's an amazing songwriter," he says. "But his voice still sends me into spasms based on the memories. I can see the genius and I do have one Dylan album, Freewheelin', and once in a great while I'll put that in. But whenever he comes on at a jukebox at a bar and it's ‘Lay Lady Lay' or some of his '70s stuff, I really, really detest it.

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;"My dad read the book, and he still keeps on me about Dylan. He's been pretty funny about it. People have actually written me saying, ‘I can't believe someone else doesn't like Dylan either.' That's been kind of cool. I don't necessarily want to be the anti-Dylan guy. My dad just played it so often it's hard to ever like it. If I ever have kids, I'll have to try hard not to cram Bob Pollard down their throats."

music@orlandoweekly.com

More by John Thomason

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