“Think about the scramble; everyone counting the days rather than the details.”
It’s a simple statement that screams into the echo chamber of quarantine life, written well before the world shut down but now hyper prescient. It shines a light on something that author Mike Hranica is all too aware of in his latest release, Bullet-Made Tambourine. It’s the fourth written-work for the man who also fronts the cornerstone metalcore outfit, The Devil Wears Prada, though – like most of his previous work – is difficult to define as “nonfiction” or “poetry.” It’s not all observational prose, although a lot of it is; the work is a tale of moments that arrange, overlap, and occasionally tear apart one another in the mere existence they occupy.
As a manner of description, the book is autobiographical nonfiction and captures a slice of Hranica’s life. It details the inception of Hranica’s newest musical venture, God Alone, as well as the writing and release of Prada’s wildly successful album, Transit Blues. Professionally speaking, it was a transitory time for him, a time when he pushed and advanced his career creatively.
The read is a fascinating window to the behind-the-scenes experience of what happened both professionally (with Prada) and personally, intriguing by the nature of it being written. What did he deem worthy of mention? Although the work fills less than 200 pages, it shouldn’t be consumed like a new show on Netflix; it’s too splendidly ruminative for binging. Hranica teeters between the anxiety of a life in constant motion and an inescapable need to feel and be at home.
With the latter comes his musing of three things it seems he always misses: his two dogs and his lady. Hranica didn’t set out to create the next great American romance novel; whether intentionally or not, as the book progressed, he dissolved the love story of his life into the love story America has with itself, dissecting America’s off-kilter political narcissism. The observations here are often where Bullet-Made Tambourine is most vibrantly alive, even if he is relentless in his passionate disdain.
In three separate sections, Bullet-Made Tambourine tackles many of the things people actively avoid thinking about let alone give breath to. For example, he contemplates the likely threat of nuclear consequence and how God must view that tinderbox, approached with a perspective so dystopian it’s jarring if it were a reality in any realm. Hranica’s description was especially captivating and heartbreaking on behalf of a God who created better but died for less.
It’s the result of an author who seems to read as much as he speaks and has an introspection that lends a unique angle to what the world looks like.
The sonic intersection that birthed The Devil Wears Prada’s best-selling record to date and the birth of a new band entirely ran parallel to the 2016 presidential election as America entered what some considered a presidential freefall and others an unprecedented success. Hranica toured the globe with occasional stints at home that year, and one night close to the election his journaling reported from a plane: “Miles above eastern Canada, I still hear a dark murmur from the States.” With a nearly impossible feat of artistic dexterity, Hranica managed to translate his displeasure for first-world privilege into a poetic reverence for other cultures balanced in simplicity and social progress.
Bullet-Made Tambourine is so much more than a continuation of Three Dots and the Guilt Machine, his previous book. Although it’s also that, it’s the result of an author who seems to read as much as he speaks and has an introspection that lends a unique angle to what the world looks like. The conversations between strangers, body language that speaks volumes, and thousands of everyday details that are never perceived the same by any two people are netted by Hranica and translated into his poetic narrative. There are times when his writing forces the reader to wonder what the hell he is talking about as his brain makes invisible connections only he can see. However, it’s how he transforms prosaic moments into freeform poetry that makes Hranica the kind of writer that challenges what writing has to be, look, and feel like.
Taking some extra time to internalize Bullet-Made Tambourine is enough to foster a temporary escape from the strange reality in which the world finds itself. It’s certainly sure to inspire some deep contemplation of both the inner and outer layers of existence, assuming his writing style is something you enjoy. With his occasional brooding and peculiar subjective storytelling, Hranica isn’t here to impress anyone, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t do it anyway.