Wednesday, February 15, 2012

GIMME SOMETHING BETTER, by Jack Boulware and Silke Tudor

Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive, and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day

Another great book. An oral history of punk in the Bay Area, created from what must have been thousands of hours of interviews. Each chapter covers a specific topic, and builds a picture of that topic by assembling brief quotes from a broad group of involved people. Impressively comprehensive, covering not just bands but other punk phenomena, like gangs (both skinhead and non, with separate chapters for different crews), squats and punk houses, venues (a chapter each for Mabuhay Gardens and the Deaf Club, 8 chapters for Gilman), labels (Lookout!, Outpunk, and others), and influential figures who weren't musicians (lots of coverage of Tim Yo and his various projects). Chronicles more than two decades, starting with the first regular-playing acts like The Nuns and Crime in SF in the late 70s, including the nihilistic/violent/drugged-out early scene that developed at that time, and carrying on to the East Bay pop-punk stuff that took over mainstream music in the mid 90s. Interesting, informative, and entertaining the whole way through. The only hesitations I have are minor, and intrinsic to oral histories: namely, it would be nice to have some objective journalism to keep things in perspective, because a lot of these old punks are probably pretty big bullshitters. Also, I think they could have condensed the coverage of Gilman a bit (didn't need to be 8 separate chapters).

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