Cherry Bomb: Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ pop

cherry bomb by jenny valentishHa! See what I did there? Doesn’t matter, I’m sure Nina Dall would still roll her eyes at such a naff header (and damn you, unsmart quotes).The fact remains, her ‘autobiography’ makes for a compelling read.

Nina Dall is one half of punk-pop duo The Dolls, the other half held down by her somewhat more brightly clad cousin, Rose. Their rise to fame from suburban Sydney pub band to international touring act is the subject of Cherry Bomb (Allen & Unwin), as told by Jenny Valentish.

Claim to fame: I worked with Jenny when I pulled a stint at J Mag, and she now holds the fort at Time Off in Melbourne. She’s been interviewing musos since she was 16, and has knocked around in front of a few Marshall amps in her time as well. All that experience is put to good use in Cherry Bomb, where the world of the band on the rise is brought to realistic life — ambition, stress, creativity, publicity. Sex. Drugs. Spats.

The story is told in Nina’s first-person point of view, in retrospect, so she can throw in the occasional tease about something that was to happen, or a dollop of background, or an aside. Sometimes those little asides break the flow, especially early on when they pop up in the middle of dialogue and a dinosaur like me has to go back to remember what the conversation was about. But mostly, it works — Nina’s voice is engaging and authentic, her vocab showing she’s not as dumb as everyone thinks.

Sure, she’s got issues. Both the cousins do. Family secrets and questions of self-esteem run thick and acidic through their co-dependency, but maybe that’s what makes them a winning team, even if maybe you don’t want to share a taxi with them.

Circling the pair is their aunt, a faded rock star who offers an in to the industry when they need it, and the producers and love interests and hangers-on all looking for their cut.

I got a chuckle that Jenny was able to take her love of utes and country music muster experiences, as outlined on one of her blogs, and put it to good use here.

Jenny’s got a great turn of phrase and an eye for detail that inform Nina’s observations.

I pictured Kane’s wife as nagging him frequently, in a dithery voice. She’d be wearing one of those satiny dresses that women buy in provincial boutiques, with the pattern of a seventies casino carpet. Thin blonde hair, spindly wrists. You couldn’t even hate her.

The text is broken up with artefacts: a faux review of Nina’s parents’ separation; record reviews; lists. It gives Cherry Bomb almost a scrapbook feel. Each chapter — check the heads for song titles — is introduced by a salient quote from aunty Alannah’s autobiography Pour Me Another. They make you want to read that book.

australian women writers challenge logoIn the back, Jenny provides a soundtrack for each chapter. And yep, Cherry Bomb is in there. It’s no surprise the Runaways are mentioned, either, although now I’m doubting myself for thinking Kristen Stewart did a job in the movie. Damn you, Jenny, and your acerbic ways!

This book — Jenny’s first fiction title — totally rocks. Read it loud!

  • Jenny is appearing at Bendigo Writers Festival August 8-10.

  • More reviews linked to the Australian Women Writers Challenge

  • Black Swan — a dark flight of fancy indeed

    Black Swan is the latest offering from director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler); it’s won a Golden Globe, amongst others, so yay that it’s finally reached Australia.

    The buzz is warranted. It’s a gripping little drama, intensely personalised thanks to the bravura performance from Natalie Portman who handles her role with just the deftness required.

    The story centres on a ballet dancer angling for the plum role of the Swan Queen in a new production of Swan Lake — Winona Ryder appears as the current prima ballerina. I went in knowing only that the movie was set in a ballet, and frankly, I was glad to not have read or heard any further information than that. The air of not quite knowing what was going on lasted right till the climax.

    There were some delightful ‘ew’ moments, mostly from the simple realities of the physical toll of dancing, and some tasty little swipes at the industry as well.

    Highly recommended.

    Scott Pilgrim vs The World

    Finally caught up with Scott Pilgrim, directed by Edgar Wright riffing hard on the original graphic novel, and really enjoyed the style. There’s a lot of graphic interplay to bring the fantasy home, ranging from unnecessary sound effects spelled out on screen to very cool sound waves and slow motion lines, and funky titles taken from computer games. But I can’t help thinking it’s time for the geeks to stop making wish-fulfilment movies. Michael Cera does a great job of portraying the title character, who must battle — arcade game style — the seven exes of the girl of his dreams (she’s smokin’ hot with dyed hair and aggressive sexuality, and she’s so into him because … well, it’s a fantasy, all right!). He also cheats on his current girlfriend, a 17-year-old virginal Asian school girl who proves adept with two swords, and has something of a history of being a cad, but you know, no harm no foul. Yes, I am old and cynical.

    The Runaways

    My liking for Joan Jett has been boosted by this biopic, which shows there’s more to Kristin Stewart than Twilight. Stewart takes the Jett role while the wonderful Dakota Fanning portrays troubled bandmate Cherie Currie. One is cut out for rock ‘n’ roll fame, the other ain’t. I enjoyed the ride of the all-girl band on the rise, and fall, but was a little miffed that the rest of the band didn’t score a ‘where are they now’ credit at the end, as the principals did. The soundtrack is, of course, rockin’.