Mass-Market Martyr

It all begins with a fill-in-the-blank. Some soothe-toothed representative of a global pop cult oligarch calls a prospect?s home and asks a kid candidate to complete one very simple statement. Most make more of the task than they should; many can?t even muster that. But some say just the right thing:

I write because you wrong.?

It's brilliant. That the fill comes from a wit all of 7 makes it doubly so. Now this is a kid who's gonna go places.

Or so believe the folk at New Renaissance, the new-fangled power Pop Shop looking to groom the Next Big Bright Young Things.

Here's their rub: If great art comes from artist's suffering, then the continually suffering artist will always create great art.

New Renaissance will see that they do.

Torture the ArtistSo goes the set-up of young gun Joey Goebel's Torture the Artist (MacAdam/Cage, $23), a most apt allegory on content and all that it contends.

The suitably suffering Vincent is the star of our show. A sickly, sorrowful lad with little hope and a lotta dark ideas, he's just what the torturer ordered—a bona fide artist in nurture. So long as nurture means kept under a cloud.

Cloud-seeder Harlan Eiffler is the perfect henchman: astute, bitter, and broke. A never-was, he's got a personal interest in affecting the mass-marketplace that wouldn't have him. Harlan's also a bit of cock-eyed altruist. So when the honchos at New Renaissance say the world can only be saved if Vincent never sees the light of a happy day, he readily complies.

Vincent gets a dog; Harlan kills it. Vincent gets a girl; Harlan offs her too—not literally perhaps, but how dead is gone? A new best friend? Can't have that. A healthy home life? No way. Harlan makes Murphy's Law look like a loophole.

The ploy works. As Vincent grows and suffers, his creations become increasingly robust: stirring songs of loveless devotion; TV that almost tears; film scripts of grit. Vincent's a veritable voice for the New Blue Generation.

Of course, if Vincent actually "made it" all would be lost. Some songs go to a solo boy-band composite named Chad, others to a tired punk set called Dunce Confederacy. Since the tracks spring from genius, they?re hits with crits; since they're sung by the celebrated, they sell by the airbusload.

Alas poor Vincent sees but a pittance.

Too bad that's about all he'll see.

Picture a Sadean Medici at a Factory outlet and you'll get an idea of the pop patronage Goebel's gunning for. Add a trailer tragic Jesus-type with a hot-shot agent and you'll get your mass-market martyr. Like getting a twisted sibling of Max Barry's Jennifer Government all hopped-up on Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.

Or something.

Whatever it is, Goebel's got the goods on it, and he's not afraid to dig deep into the vast vapidity under which we now live in order to deliver 'em. His debut, The Anomalies, used rock to crush the hard place of prejudice (plus it kicked ass); Torture takes Pop to snap the crackle of the whole wild world of ideas. To what great lengths must we go for greatness? To what extent will we suffer fools? How much is that artist in the window? Makes quite a case for everlasting ephemera.




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