Bob Suren is someone I consider a friend. I wish he was living here in Los Angeles and not Austin, but this place is expensive, and I wouldn’t wish these rents on anyone. I first came into contact with him around 1994 via Sound Idea mailorder and a zine he used to put out called Heavy Rotation. I strongly urge you to seek these zines out. You will be glad you did. I have nothing but deep respect and admiration for the man. Not only is he a walking, talking encyclopedia of punk rock knowledge, he’s, more importantly, a great person, as you will discover reading this book.
A couple years back, Bob’s life changed drastically and he was forced to clean house and start from scratch. Selling off a massive record collection, as well as zines and flyers he collected for over three decades, he has since set out on a new journey, but he’s also taking some time and looking back on the past and putting it all into perspective. This book is about that.
From the title of the book you may think this is one of those obsessive discography type books where the writer gives you all the details, major and minor, about any particular record. While Bob could certainly do that, he made this more real and captured why these records and this music connects and becomes so important to him. This whole punk thing is much more than just music. There are reasons why people change the way they live their lives after seeing and hearing a band like Black Flag (way before the reunions of present day), opposed to something like hearing REO Speedwagon, where it’s just some song on the radio that gets played a bunch.
The majority of the chapters of this book are named after a classic punk record. Sometimes it is about the record, but most often it’s Bob recalling a memory of the time that particular record entered his life. Such is the chapter about Minor Threat’s Out Of Step EP. While he does give some background on the band and the record, it’s mostly about the first time he heard it via a friend playing the tape in his car stereo while they were skating.
By far my favorite is the Toxic Reasons chapter that tells about his time working for a local independent television station as the master control operator. Out of boredom one Saturday night, unbeknownst to the main boss, he played Target and Flipside videos in place of the usual infomercials. That became a regular thing for a short while. Then there’s the chapter about driving down with a few friends and his sister to Miami Beach to see the Ramones. A lot of great stuff is in here, and it sticks with you because it’s something you will be able to relate to.
In between are chapters about his record store, Sound Idea, which grew out of the mailorder. His store hosted shows for local and touring bands in the back room. It was also where he and a bunch of locals put together the fanzine Burn Brandon, where he ranhis record label Burrito (not only releasing records of his own band Failure Face and Murder Suicide Pact, but also Cult Ritual, F, Gay Cowboys In Bondage, Terrorain, the legendary triple CD set Really Fast), and hosted his podcast, Punk Rock Record Party.
Along with the punk rock fun, he includes chapters of personal life, friends made along the way, and going through a painful divorce, along with the fallout that goes with it. He writes chapters that will inspire you, make you laugh, and then the next chapter will break your heart. As much as this book is about punk music, it’s also about life, and how obsessiveness can make you miss out on it.
Reading this book brought back a lot of memories, forcing me to do some self-reflecting, and reminding me why this music was so important for so many years. I did not want this book to end, so I stopped reading this for a couple weeks before finishing off the last four chapters. Even before doing so, I went back and re-read some of the chapters, skipped ahead, and then went back to where I originally was. In essence, I’ve read this book many times. You might, too. –M.Avrg (Microcosm, 2752 N Williams Ave., Portland, OR 97227, Microcosm Publishing.com)