NICK KENT The Dark Stuff (Da Capo)

Despite recently being the recipient of a Godlike Genius award at this year's rather self-congratulatory NME Brat awards, Nick Kent's godlike genius is currently under-represented in British bookshops, and the interested reader will have to look inside America to find a copy of his celebrated anthology "The Dark Stuff", subtitled "Selected writings on rock music 1972-1995". The results justify the effort expended, however: as arguably this country's closest counterpart to Creem legend and sometime NME contributor the late Lester Bangs, Kent has been dismissed as "The Judy Garland of rock journalism" by Lou Reed (locking horns with Lou Reed apparently being some kind of twisted rite of passage for rock journalists in the 70s), had his shattered countenance celebrated in song by Elvis Costello (who wrote "Waiting For The End Of The World" after seeing him on a tube train) and could even call upon the services of Iggy Pop to provide a foreword to this collection ("I red this nasty book with an unusual degree of interest".)

As the title suggests, Kent seems to be magnetically drawn towards the dark side, the seamy underbelly of glamour and fame, an irrepressible investigator of the point at which everything goes horribly wrong. Here he does both the burn-out and the fade away, his subjects including Brian Wilson (a mammoth 70 page odyssey primarily concerned with his post-"Pet Sounds" wilderness years), Roky Erickson, Sid (Vicious) and Syd (Barrett), Kurt Cobain and Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as hardy perennials such as The Rolling Stones (wading through the flabby mess of their post-"Exile On Main St" career, of course) and a concise summary of Neil Young's turbulent career. And, unlike the unauthorised cut and paste approach of most rock biography, "The Dark Stuff" is written with first-person authority: when he struggles manfully with somewhat distracted interviewee Roky Erickson the futility and frustration of the exercise is reported warts and all. For anybody with an interest in the rock journalism as an art form, such as it is, or at least a passing fascination with any of the dozen-plus artists surveyed, "The Dark Stuff" is a vital read.