This is a strange book. It’s strange for a book about punk and it’s even stranger for an academic book about punk. It’s strange because I can see myself in it. I’ve never experienced that with any other punk book, academic or otherwise. Global Punk is filled with people I know, contemporary punk bands I like (or at least have heard of), and theoretic models I respect. It feels intimate. I believe that anyone actively involved in DIY punk rock will experience this intimacy. The intimacy comes not directly through the book’s engagement with bands I like and people I know, but from the equal treatment it gives to various iterations of DIY punk globally, and the threads that unite them.
Equally strange is the book’s starting point. It’s evident from the first page that Global Punk isn’t a nostalgia project, a dispassionate analysis, nor an attempt at definition or periodization. This alone knocks off the vast majority of books about punk. This project is a self-professed defense of DIY punk and why it matters. Kevin speaks about punks in almost the same way that Marx talks about the proletariat. Marx is very careful not to identify the proletariat as a class, but as the oppositional body to class structure. Similarly, Global Punk doesn’t attempt to change or define punk as a specific genre or discrete community, but describes how DIY punk is principally an oppositional identity (within capitalism) that’s empowering for individuals and the communities they comprise.
Global Punk scrambles familiar coordinates. It’s not a book about punk music per se, nor is it a book about youth culture. Global Punk carefully transverses different scenes and finds within them methods, principles, practices, and voices of political resistance. It aims to show the material consequences of the heterogeneous expressions of this oppositional identity. How does geography, political climate, mainstream appropriation, established distribution networks, housing laws, recording format, et cetera, effect how this oppositional identity is expressed? The material consequences of a Green Day CD in the hands of a thirty-year-old at a mall in Wisconsin in 1995 can be entirely different than in the hands of a fifteen-year-old in Jakarta in 2002. At every turn, Kevin highlights the currents and eddies of resistance within punk and how they crack and rupture capitalist ideology and infrastructure.
While Kevin is an academic and the book is definitely a work of political theory, the accessibility and tone of Global Punk are for anyone interested in DIY punk. Kevin introduces theory out of utility and necessity, not out of habit or fashionability. Kevin’s voice is present throughout the piece, making for an atypical academic book. An active participant in DIY punk and a world traveler, Kevin doesn’t shy away from including personal stories when they add to the discussion. And with chapter titles like “Satan Wears a Bra While Sniffin’ Glue and Eating Razorcake,” Global Punk clearly contains a fair amount of humor. The totality of all these elements reflects Kevin’s love of DIY punk and optimism for its future. Global Punk may never be a bestseller and will long be overshadowed by books like Our Band Could Be Your Life, but, for me, it will be the book I buy for friends, and revisit for years to come.
Highly recommended. –Matthew Hart (Bloomsbury, 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, bloomsbury.com)