I apologize in advance for this review because I’m writing it almost two months after I finished this book so it might not be particularly long or particularly specific (and I’ve had to refresh my memory using the Internet several times already). My friend loaned me Perfect from Now On both because the writer, John Sellers, was about our age (give or take about four years) and he thought I might enjoy it. For the most part, I did. I’m always interested in other peoples’ relationships with music and how those relationships compare to mine.
As I read, I kept thinking about the Weezer song, “Heart Songs,” where Rivers Cuomo sings about his musical influences growing up and how Nirvana’s Nevermind changed everything. This is Sellers trying to tell a similar story– how he rebelled against his father’s passion for Dylan, of the music he loved in high school, and how he developed a passion for a number of less commercial rock bands—Joy Division, Pavement, and finally Guided By Voices. As a matter of fact, the final third of this book is devoted to Seller’s obsession with Guided By Voices including the machinations he went through to meet Robert Pollard. Seller is funny, bitter, and judgmental—the classic music snob who would abandon a band if they achieved too much popularity but who until then, might search out every track they ever produced or make a pilgrimage to place referred to in a song. For the most part, that makes this memoir fairly entertaining to read. There are High Fidelity type lists and a great number of footnotes.
On the other hand, this is definitely a guy’s musical memoir. Discussions of women artists are few and far between. Also, I never got the “saved my life” aspect from the title. It’s clear that music is very important to Sellers, but I didn’t get a good sense of what it saved him from or how. It didn’t help that while I was reading this, I heard an excerpt on All Songs Considered from Bob Boilen’s book, Your Song Changed My Life, where Boilen shared how a specific Beatles song set him on the path to where he is now. This piece, which I think is the introduction to the book, was just so much more from the heart and the gut that Perfect From Now On paled a bit in comparison.
So, here’s my recommendation. If you’re a fan of Pavement and Guided by Voices and like to make Top 5 lists related to music, you might enjoy this. If you think “Heart Songs” is the worst Weezer song ever OR you hate people who skewer any music that’s played on mainstream radio OR you despise excessive footnotes, you’ll definitely want to skip this.