Mutations By Sam McPheeters, 265 pgs.

May 29, 2020

Sam McPheeters, of course, was the singer of Born Against, Men’s Recovery Project, and Wrangler Brutes. He’s also a hell of a writer: his columns graced the pages of the dearly departed Punk Planet for years; I dug his two novels The Loom of Ruin and Exploded View. In Mutations, Sam is back with a collection of essays on all things punk rock: his seminal expository piece on the artist formerly known as Doc Corbin Dart of the Crucifucks; pieces on the death of a record pressing plant, being an extra in a video shot at The Smell, and, of course, bands: Die Kreuzen, Casual Dots, and No Trend grace the pages of Mutations. So does the single best essay on SSD I’ve ever read. (Granted, that particular pool isn’t very deep, but still.)

Sam is a talented writer and takes these essays into unexpected, often hilarious places, making this one a joy to read. But there’s more to Mutations than straight music writing. It’s a reckoning. As the frontman of an admittedly opinionated series of bands, McPheeters made brash, often misguided stands, both live and in print. As he ruminates on the many tendrils of the punk scene, Sam works through all the stands he took, explaining as best he could how and why he came to the tentative conclusions he did. The unexpected rumination adds another layer to Mutations, pushing it from good to great. Highly entertaining and viciously intelligent throughout. –Michael T. Fournier (Rare Bird,