I didn’t read Gomez’s first novel about the indie rock band Bottlecap, but “Geniuses of Crack” (a book that I stumbled across on a table of new paperbacks while killing time before a movie) didn’t feel at all tied to any preexisting storyline. The novel tells the story of a small time indie rock band who gets signed to a Los Angeles record label and heads out to the west coast to record their debut album. While on the trip from the quiet suburbs of Virginia to the sunny streets of LA, the three members of Bottlecap engage on a spiritual journey of personal early 20s discovery.
After their initial weekend living in style at the Mondrian Hotel, the guys move into a temporary apartment while they record with the engineer and producer that have been selected for them. The actual making of the record becomes a more difficult task than Bottlecap could have imagined, given all the preoccupations that come with getting $10,000 signing bonuses and being in California for the first time on their way to becoming rock stars.
While one of the guys falls for a rich girl from the Valley, another falls for a poor but cool hair stylist who shares his love of retro clothing, while the third begins hanging out with the heroin smoking aspiring actor who lives next door. As the infinite possibility of LA begins to detract from the focus and passion for making their record, the record company begins to play games with the band leaving them without control over their music or lives. Once trapped in the middle of a real life dream gone bad, the members of Bottlecap begin a downward spiral, finding themselves trapped somewhere between genuine confusion and an idealistic morality.
Although Gomez’s prose is filled with countless generational cliches and even more obscure indie rock references, the writing is careful and readable. Each of the characters speak and think in a very natural and believable manner. Gomez has succeeded where many have failed by capturing the hopes, dreams and anxieties of the twenty-something generation in a way that is neither contrived nor patronizing. Their lives are slightly pathetic, yet still primarily enjoyable. By and large, this was how I spent my early twenties, waiting around for a break and just trying to remain as happy as possible until it happened. In the end “Geniuses of Crack” is a good book- in no way a classic- but for anyone who likes indie rock and remembers fondly the impoverished post-collegiate years, this book is definitely worth a read.