SMASH IT UP!

Ker­rang! writer Ian Win­wood delves into the era that changed punk for­ever

Kerrang! (UK) - - Reviews -

You can find any num­ber of books ex­plor­ing the cul­tural im­pact of the Sex Pis­tols and the ’70s punk ex­plo­sion. Sim­i­larly, the hard­core scene that co­a­lesced in the early ’80s and the punk-tinged in­die­rock that ac­com­pa­nied it rep­re­sent well-trod­den ground. The ’90s U.S. punk ex­plo­sion that saw Green Day and The Off­spring out­sell any of their pre­de­ces­sors and drag punk prop­erly into the main­stream? Not so much. There are snap­shots like Punk USA, Kevin Prested’s slightly ob­ses­sive his­tory of Look­out! Records, but no real com­pre­hen­sive over­views to match Ian Win­wood’s ex­cel­lent new book Smash!.

Per­haps it’s be­cause there was, and still is, some de­gree of snob­bery from some quar­ters sur­round­ing the mu­sic, its mak­ers and their punk cre­den­tials – a point that is briefly ad­dressed here. It’s im­pos­si­ble to ar­gue that the ’90s era had a greater cul­tural or mu­si­cal im­pact than the class of ’77, but it did have an en­dur­ing ef­fect that still res­onates through punk as we know it to­day.

As the au­thor points out in his in­tro­duc­tion, punk was a poor ca­reer choice be­fore 1994. This book doc­u­ments the sig­nif­i­cance and achieve­ments of what Bad Re­li­gion singer Greg Graf­fin de­scribes as “the democrati­sa­tion of punk” as a re­sult of the enor­mous suc­cesses of al­bums like Green Day’s Dookie. It does so not by the metic­u­lous cat­a­logu­ing of ev­ery League Two act that man­aged to rus­tle up an EP dur­ing the decade. The book’s sub­ti­tle is ‘Green Day, The Off­spring, Bad Re­li­gion, NOFX + The ’90s Punk Ex­plo­sion’, and it largely sticks to those big fish. There are neat cameos from the likes of Pen­ny­wise and Pansy Divi­sion – who were one of the first openly gay groups of any genre – but the fo­cus is firmly fixed on the scene’s driv­ing forces.

Of these, Green Day and The Off­spring are the ob­vi­ous lead­ers. The book takes its ti­tle from The Off­spring’s 1994 break­through al­bum, in fact, which de­fied the odds to be­come the best-selling in­de­pen­dent al­bum ever. Smash! is built around orig­i­nal in­ter­views with all the key play­ers, in­clud­ing not just the bands but scene founders and mu­sic in­dus­try big­wigs too. Only the “de­pend­ably elu­sive” Ran­cid de­clined to con­trib­ute, but are not omit­ted from the story. We also get dis­sec­tions of the pe­riod’s piv­otal al­bums, an in­sight­ful over­view of the cir­cum­stances that shaped the scene and some one-line zingers (“It would of course be wrong to say that up un­til this point [So­cial Dis­tor­tion front­man] Mike Ness couldn’t get him­self ar­rested be­cause he had, many times.”)

If you have any in­ter­est in how punk came to be the beast that it is to­day, you should seek out Smash!. The ’90s punk ex­plo­sion is a re­mark­able, if of­ten over­looked, part of mu­si­cal his­tory. Fi­nally, it has the book its story de­serves. PAUL TRAVERS

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.