Anyone who has worked in the music industry is probably aware of the massive difference between the people who release records and the consumers who buy them. However, no one has captured this disconnect as irreverently as Dan Kennedy does with Rock On: An Office Power Ballad. A regular contributor to McSweeney's (and a former employee at Atlantic Records), Kennedy's latest book picks up where his hilarious coming-of-age memoir Loser Goes First left off, showing what happens when a slacker copywriter gets a job at a major label at a time when the industry's very infrastructure is at stake.
Okay, we'll admit that sounds kind of serious. Thankfully, Kennedy's sense of humor and inner dialogue are as sharp as ever. Whether he's fantasizing about being his bubbly young assistant, trying to create an advertisement to commemorate Phil Collins' back catalogue, or obsessing about the inherent irony of the Donnas, Kennedy manages to perfectly capture how out of touch these studio executives are at a time they should be innovating. Plus, regardless of whether the subject is refinancing mortgages or Kid Rock's marketing campaign, who hasn't unsuccessfully tried to avoid embarrassment at a board meeting? Despite the fact that Rock On is in some ways a eulogy for the major-label system, though, it also makes painfully clear how much Kennedy truly loves music.
The author's attention to detail makes the reader root for him in the same way we all relate to John Krasinski's character in The Office. "With hearts and brains like hard drives, we all move through this life constantly shuffling through thousands of songs triggered by memories and names," Kennedy muses in Rock On's introduction — before making a casual aside about how his ex-girlfriend cheated on him with patrons of a local restaurant in exchange for cocaine. It's this dichotomy of realism and humor that makes Rock On a success. Sorry, Chuck Klosterman: You have some serious competition as the voice of the High Fidelity generation.