Music Monday: Vurt, by Jeff Noon

In the first of my Music Monday posts for Sci-fi Month, I thought it would be a great idea to pair an album with one of the craziest books I’ve ever read – Jeff Noon’s Vurt. Wish me luck. Music Monday is the creation of Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek, and this is my slightly altered take on it.

Taking place in a grim vision of a future Manchester, Vurt is the Arthur C. Clarke Award winning debut by Jeff Noon. Published in 1994, it follows Scribble and his friends, collectively known as the Stash Riders, as they try to track down Scribble’s sister and lover, Desdemona. Their journey takes them to a number of colourful locations – Bottle Town being one which has appeared on this blog before – as they desperately seek a way to retrieve Desdemona from the alternate reality of the vurt.

I smashed a lot of glass for this photo

The vurt itself is accessed through different coloured feathers, each colour representing a different kind of experience – blue feathers are perfectly legal, pink are pornographic, black are pain, silver are admin and yellow are knowledge, the most potentially dangerous of all. Desdemona is lost inside a yellow named English Voodoo and swapped with a sentient blob of vurt-flesh dubbed The Thing from Outer Space. Scribble will clash with the authorities, crossbred dog people and shadowgoths as he attempts to swap her back, in this “Alice in Cyberpunk Wonderland” tale of addiction and inner-city squalor.

A bonkers book deserves a bonkers soundtrack, and in fact there are several musical moments mentioned in the book. Let’s be honest, how could there not be, in a book set in “Madchester?” Sadly, we’re yet to see a band fronted by a rapping dogman, so I’ve had to make other arrangements.

Angel Dust is the fourth album by Faith No More, and it’s difficult to describe it as anything other than an audacious masterpiece. A wildly experimental album for a wildly experimental book then, but like Vurt, Angel Dust somehow wrangles this experimentation into a cohesive whole that is just mind blowing. The album title also works pretty well thematically, a slang term for the mind-altering drug PCP.

The music video for Midlife Crisis. I make no apologies for the inevitable earworm resulting from the chorus.

Following the band’s highly successful album The Real Thing arguably should have been an insurmountably tall order; mega hit Epic helped propel that album to platinum status, with the likes of From Out of Nowhere and Falling to Pieces showcasing their broad range of influences. Funk, rap, metal, prog rock, nothing seemed to be off the table. But the band doubled down on the eclecticism for Angel Dust, adding a wealth of samples into the mix, covering Commodores classic Easy for the re-release – seemingly just because they could, so might as well – and vocalist Mike Patton alternating between rapping, crooning, screeching and moaning across this hugely ambitious release. Small wonder that Kerrang! magazine named it the most influential album of all time.

Two genre-defying classics in one post? What value! There’s plenty more coming up on this blog for Sci-Fi Month, including more Music Monday posts; Douglas Coupland’s Girlfriend in a Coma and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness being the next books to be paired with an album. See you soon!

8 thoughts on “Music Monday: Vurt, by Jeff Noon

    1. I haven’t, I really want to though! It seems harder to get hold of for some reason, suspect I’ll end up getting a pre-owned copy. I’ve read a few of his others though, like Needle in the Groove and the first and third Nyquist books. Really enjoyed them!

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