Gary Couzens (ed.), Extended Play. Elastic Press, 2006. Pp. 320. ISBN 095488129X. £6.99.

Reviewed by Susan Mattinson

This anthology of short fiction combines music with life, taking the reader from one situational extreme to the other. Feeling the bass booms of nightlife at its most raw, catching glimpses of the metaphysical, experiencing the violence and disputes alongside the subtle nuances of romantic relationships will cause the reader to see music and musicians as never seen before.

Drumming allows a little boy to "go sideways" and astral project in order to escape domestic violence in ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ by Marion Arnott, while war in the borderline cataclysmic land of Tim Nickels' ‘fight Music’ uses musical training and conservatory to change musicians into war machines. ‘In the Pines’ by Rosanne Rabinowitz shows one song in its many manifestations, presenting music as a form of metaphysical transportation and a builder of self confidence and strength (even when faced by the Jersey Devil).

Music also becomes the soundtrack for relationships in stories such as ‘Last Song’ by Andrew Humphrey, where an open mic night brings three characters together into a web of dysfunction and sacrifice. ‘Tremolando’ by Becky Done introduces conflict to a group of chamber musicians that leads to a shifting of relationships. The complexity continues in Emma Lee's ‘First and Last’, where an interest in records and music leads a middle-class woman through a series of disappointing romances to a fresh start.

Night lives get their due in ‘Some Obscure Lesion of the Heart’ by Nels Stanley, following the adventures of a nocturnal music reviewer with an appreciation for "pulsing skronk". Jazz music moves to the foreground through a famous sax player in ‘A Night in Tunisia’ by Tony Richards. ‘The Barrowlands' Last Night’ by Philip Raines and Harvey Welles shows us the last concert before the demolition of a music hall. This story stresses the connection between different groups of music fans, and caring between brothers, even as the Mosh Demon works his disruptions.

These tales of fiction are separated by short writings from musicians expressing how fiction has affected their song writing. The importance of timelines, the effect of writing from an animal perspective, and general inspiration from fiction are all presented in writings from songwriters JJ Burnelm, Rebekah Delgado, Catherine and Susan Hay, Lene Lovich, Gary Lightbody, Sean "Grasshopper" Mackowiak, Jof Owen, Iain Ross, Chris Stein, and Chris T-T.

While some of the stories in this anthology have a tendency to digress into obscurity or to points beyond bizarre, they lead to many fresh and unexpected destinations. Even though the book's summary states that "this anthology brings new meaning to the phrase one hit wonders", I definitely hope this is not the last we will see of these talented writers and musicians.

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