Surprisingly, I’ve never paired music with literature before, but having recently discovered author Jesse Bullington‘s excellent debut novel from 2009, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, I felt the need to suggest the perfect musical accompaniment. If ever there were a band to soundtrack the terrible, violent – and vilely, terribly violent – tale of the graverobbing brothers from Germany, it would be Italy’s Movie Star Junkies. Their debut, Melville, is obviously literary in its inspiration, and the appropriateness of the pairing only grows from there.
The band sounds like a ramshackle, broken-down bunch of musicians, living off a cask of some liquor in the basement of a falling-down old castle. Their music, which on Melville had a slightly whimsical bent, has only taken a turn to the darker with last year’s sophomore release, A Poison Tree. Songs talk about death and dying, and what more could one want for a novel that, in its first chapters, features the brothers Grossbart hogtying a man, and then burning his baby daughters alive? And these are your protagonists, no less.
Movie Star Junkies are the sort of band who might play at Tom Waits’ wake. Their sound is akin to a funeral dirge, yet the elements of early Black Lips’ flower-power psychedelic garage temper everything with a sense of uncertainty. There is the possibility that everything will work out in the end. This is a necessary bit of hope to maintain, considering the brothers, over the course of Bullington’s novel, repeatedly come to the brink of death or destruction. Battles with demons, witches, rogues, pirates, the Church, and more, all stand in the way of the two making it to Gyptland, where they hope to make their fortune.
Hit up Voodoo Rhythm to get both of the Movie Star Junkies’ full-lengths, and throw them on while you dip into plague-ridden 14th-century Europe and cross its length with a pair of murdering, stealing, drunken, and yet strangely pious brothers. A word to the wise: the back of the book features the warning “Contains strong language and scenes of graphic violence.” This is quite true. Be forewarned if you have a sensitive constitution or are easily offended.
Bullington released his second novel, The Enterprise of Death, earlier this year.