All posts filed under: Books


BOOK REVIEW: DANIEL MAKAGON, “Underground: The Subterranean Culture Of D.I.Y. Punk Shows”

This is, to a great extent, one of those books I wish was around when I was playing in a band – certainly, when I was 18 and in my first band.  We could have used a guidebook, which is how I view this fine piece of writing by Daniel Makagon, associate professor in the College of Communicaton at DePaul University.  It is not filled with witty recountings of life on the road; no amusing anecdotes about women, drugs or which promoter fucked which band over.  It’s all of it,  but done in a very direct, matter-of-fact manner (little wonder since Makagon is an academic) and I applaud it.  Sometimes, it’s all well and good to read road tales, but if you’re going to go out as a performer, especially in these tiny, makeshift scenes, you really should have a map and a knowledge of the proverbial bear traps out there, as not everyone is altruistic and money becomes the central point of everything.  Yes, it’s vital to have these networks – the “American Underground” …


REVIEW: Richard Buckner – “The Hill” (Reissue)

Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology turned 100 a few days ago, and Merge Records marked the occasion by re-releasing the oft-overlooked indie-folk gem it inspired, Richard Buckner’s majestic homage, 2000’s The Hill, which puts more than a baker’s dozen of Masters’ pen-and-ink story-biographies to song. There are plenty of ways to get to Buckner’s Hill. And plenty of ways to dig your hands into the soil of it all. But, plain and simple, this Buckner record, in particular out of his lofty canon, is not a hill but a mountain, a singular accomplishment among many. Backed occasionally lushly but more often sparsely by Calexico core Joey Burns and John Convertino, Buckner strikes a semblance of quiet desperation as he breathes life into 18 of Masters’ pseudo-obituaries/confessions, making them more like living, breathing rough drafts then final nails in coffin lids. It’s exciting, even enthralling stuff to hear. Buckner has his hook in you from square one; and he knows it. The work-song spiritual “Ollie McGee” is downright devastating. Two songs later, “Julia Miller” will knock you …


BOOK REVIEW: Bob Suren, “Crate Digger: An Obsession With Punk Records”

This is not your standard recount of a punk album collector’s purchases and memories of the records he bought over the years; it’s not a compendium of albums all punks (or ex-punks) should have.  What Bob Suren has done is to inject some highly personal and emotionally wrenching anecdotes to go along with the memories of hearing, searching for and either buying or re-releasing certain punk albums of the initial hardcore era from the early ’80’s. Crate Digger: An Obsession With Punk Records takes the reader through his seeking out these records that affected him; the relationships that he aligns with these records and bands and through his experiences.  He ran a small record label; he played in bands, he owned a long-running record store; he did it all.  Some of his moments were triumphs; some were very low points – all of which he recounts with no sense of self-pity but matter-of-fact – this is not a pretty tale.  But Bob Suren certainly knows how to tell it and it’s a very worthwhile read. …