Book Review: One Model Nation by Courtney Taylor-Taylor (of The Dandy Warhols)

From the front man of the band The Dandy Warhols comes a graphic novel called One Model Nation, which has grown into quite a large mutli-media project for Courtney Taylor-Taylor.  The subject matter is not exactly what you would expect to read from the lead singer of a breezy pop-alt band, but the characters will fit right into what you think The Dandy Warhols are probably like as people, and how they feel about their music influencing others.

Set in a slightly alternate universe, One Model Nation concerns the late 70’s post-war German cultural revolution, as seen through the eyes of a band named One Model Nation.  Though the time is marked by civil unrest and the activities of the Red Army Faction, it is the story of a band rising to huge fame in the electronic music scene, only to be grouped in with left wing terrorists like Andreas Baader.

The story takes its artistic license with dates and times, and while it takes  place during the “German Autumn” of 1977, the events concerning Ulrike Meinhof, a close friend to the main character/lead singer of One Model Nation, happened long before the RAF’s activities of 1977.  However, it doesn’t hurt the dramatic pull of the story, intertwining the band further with RAF terrorists, unbeknownst to them.

Most of the novel centers on the band, and their attempts to create music without interference from authorities because of their perceived affiliations with the RAF and Andreas Baader.  When the lead singer, the sensitive, soft-spoken Sebastian (leaving a robot he created that is an exact replica of himself to play concerts) decides to take a vacation to his father’s house in the Bavarian alps, he decides what is most important to him.  He says goodbye to his old flame Ulrike Meinhof, who ended up revealing herself as one of the leaders of the RAF when she sprung Baader from prison in a daring, murderous escape.

The band is left to react to everything around them, afraid to become embroiled in something that isn’t their fight.  They simply want to spread their music to their fans, and despite their growing popularity, they can’t seem to get a meeting with the government representative that could help them avoid the terrorist implications.

Although the main characters are really a small part of the story, that is the story: the fact that the German art scene had a revolution during Baader’s attempt at a violent revolution in the streets.  Taylor-Taylor expresses his fascination with the German electronic bands of the time, and when he decided to write the story, that’s where everything he wanted to say seemed to fit in.

Originally conceived as a film script, he got positive notices from Gus Van Sant and others in Hollywood.  Despite these good notices, he could never get the project moved forward as a film, and when Taylor-Taylor met acclaimed comic writer Michael Allred he wanted to do the art himself, but since time did not permit him to, he got Image Comics to recommend someone, and they hit it out of the park recommending Jim Rugg, whose art deftly matches the tone of the story, while still nice to look at, it brings the comic to life in a way that only benefits Taylor-Taylor’s attempts to get a film made.

Originally released in December 2009, this is Titan Books‘ release of the graphic novel, in a beautiful hardcover presentation that everyone has come to expect of them.  It’s a great package to look at, and while I wasn’t blown away by the material, the sheer scope of the project lies far beyond the graphic novel.  Titan Books is releasing this hardcover version in conjunction with the One Model Nation album recorded by Taylor-Taylor, released by The End Records (Sony Red Music) on January 31st, 2012, the same day this book goes on sale nation wide.  There will be a fully animated One Model Nation music video to tie in with the first single release, you can check that out at OneModelNation.com.

One Model Nation graphic novel  – 7.8/10

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