Music: Pieces on Heavy Metal, Punk Rock, and Hardcore Punk: By Lewis Dimmick, 66 pgs. By Dave Brainwreck

Aug 16, 2013

In some ways this book might be a novella, in others a short story collection, yet it perhaps most resembles (to me) a perfect-bound, typeset, “personal zine.” This Music is a series of loosely chronological vignettes charting Lewis Dimmick’s musical adolescence as a Staten Island teenager and young adult giving himself over the 1980s New York hardcore punk scene. Dimmick’s prose is clear and succinct, with each piece usually making its point in a page or less. I’m partial to memoirish punk writing from this vantage point: someone wholly involved and devoted to a particular scene, yet not one of the big playmakers per se. For example: it’s more interesting to me how Dimmick, as a relatively anonymous yet probably somewhat familiar face haunting CBGB throughout the ‘80s, perceived Roger Miret from the sidelines than anytime I’ve encountered Miret “on” Miret.

The Dionysian/Apollonian split in art makes for a necessary distance between punk music and punk writing—you can’t verbally reconstruct an Agnostic Front riff, and there’s no way to completely articulate the swelling of your soul that shuts down your brain and lets the music take over when you’re watching, listening to, or playing it. But the minutiae of being an obsessive, fucked-up kid throwing yourself into the world of punk—recording the weekly punk radio show, hoping your mom vouches for your age at ABC No Rio when you’re under sixteen, following Dave Insurgent down the street because you want a Reagan Youth shirt—is entirely valuable and a perfect complement to the force driving all of this—the music—as well as key to better understanding ourselves and our culture. Lewis Dimmick does this admirably, and I would have found much of value in this even if I wasn’t immediately interested in anything about punk or NYHC.

His successes in communicating his experience, however, makes it all the more disappointing every time he sits on his generation’s laurels and uses them as a way to dismiss an entire scene I’m guessing he knows close to nothing about. Dimmick often employs the power of the bands he saw in the 1980s as a measuring stick for giving “current hardcore” a failing grade—hardcore he views as formulaic, sterile, devoid of originality and emotion. I can only assume he is writing about more commercially successful hardcore bands, which probably are the only ones he’s been exposed to lately, than the dozens of bands that make up the current New York DIY hardcore scene, which, while imperfect, certainly holds up against any blowhardy dismissals from someone no longer “in it.” But in and of itself, that is a small problem—if I, like Lewis three decades ago, could convince my parents to go with me to punk shows, then I can probably drag him out to see Creem or Dawn Of Humans sometime so he can start working on his official retraction. –Dave Brainwreck (