Honestly, I was expecting this book to suck. After reading the disappointing American Hardcore, We’ve Got the Neutron Bomb, and just about every punk book that has come out since (with the exceptions of Hot Love and The Lexicon Devil—which are essential books on punk rock) I was thinking the days of great punk history books was over and done. The cover to this is pretty atrocious. It’s like something you’d see on a Rancid record—liberty spiked mohican, bland title font, and just all around bleh… However, the contents are awesome. The authors start at the beginning and take us all the way up to more recent times.
Bands like the Dead Kennedys, Social Unrest, Fang (this is one band that deserves an entire book devoted to their story), the Nuns, Neurosis, Crime, Avengers, and more get chapters devoted to their story, and institutions like the Farm, Tool & Die, Gilman, On Broadway, the Vats, and others get coverage. From squats to collectives, these people took punk beyond the superficial trappings, and sought to create a viable alternative to the mainstream. It’s unreal how rich the history of Bay Area punk is. Just about every town or city in that area made an impact on punk at large. You had the San Francisco bands, the Berkeley bands, and then there were bands like Social Unrest from Hayward, and then later bands like Isocracy and Green Day coming from the smaller towns outside of Berkeley.
The way the book is structured is similar to Please Kill Me, where it’s basically an oral history with many participants. This makes for a varied reading and illustrates the interesting personalities involved. Always interesting and inspiring. The book captures what the times were like, from the beginnings of the first wave, to the Reagan ‘80s, the birth of Gilman, and how things have changed, as well, with the success of bands like Green Day, AFI, and Rancid. It’s about time someone did this for one of the most influential scenes in the history of punk rock. Makes me miss the place that much more. (Penguin, penguin.com)