The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar

Franz Nicolay. New Press, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-62097-179-6
Musician Nicolay, who has performed around the world with indie bands including the Hold Steady, the World/Inferno Friendship Society, and Guignol, in addition to teaching music at Bard College in New York, attempts to merge literature, politics, travel, and punk rock into something bigger than its parts. And he succeeds, to a degree, in this account of a six-month tour in 2012 that began and ended in Kiev with runs through Turkey, Russia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Romania, among others. The book often veers into rote tour diary entries despite Nicolay’s best attempts to integrate perspective into the account by bringing in other voices—notable authors such as Christopher Hitchens, experts who have written about his current location, etc.—to help tell the backstory of the places he visits. He adds a layer of depth by exploring the ways music, specifically punk music, inspire and unite the local populace. Though he’s clearly researched his destinations, there’s no real arc to the narrative, and as a result Nicolay’s journey gets to be repetitious for the reader. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/20/2016
Release date: 05/01/2016
Ebook - 978-1-62097-180-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-5159-0637-7
MP3 CD - 978-1-5159-5637-2
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