Scanner Web Zine - The place for Punk Rock, Hardcore, Anarcho and scuzzy Garage Rock 'n' Roll

Books - H

HARD ART: DC 1979 - Lucian Perkins (104 pages, Akashic Books}
We all know that there was some kinda Punk Rock revolution going on in DC in 1979. BAD BRAINS, a quartet of black, African-Americans was cranking out some jams at a pace never previously experienced and, in doing so, arguably gave birth to the nascent hardcore scene that followed. Emphasising this fact were bands like TEEN IDLES, TRENCHMOUTH and the soon-to-be S.O.A. This book features the photography of Lucian Perkins shot at four shows in DIY spaces in DC and includes all of those bands mentioned.
It’s presented in landscape format, wrapped in a solid and stylish hardback binding featuring a young HR busting some chops at the Hard Art Gallery, the venue/ space that gives the book its name.
A foreword is provided by Lely Constantinople. She was hired in 1995 by photographer Lucian Perkins (who, at the time, was photographer for Washington Post) to organise his massive photo collection. Among the collected shots of war and locality based pics, were these bold, impulsive and intense photos. A second foreword is provided by Jayme McLellan who curated an art space in DC. The original intent was for just an exhibition of the photos, and from that, grew this book.
The photographs themselves were shot at Valley Green Housing Complex and Hard Art Gallery in September 1979 with a further two sessions from Madams Organ Artist’s Cooperative in November 1979 and January 1980. Each gig has its own chapter with Alec MacKaye providing an on-the-spot narrative.
The photos are sharply focused (especially given the chaos going on at the gigs), bold in contrast and have a vibrancy and vitality that is lacking in much of today’s digital snaps. The photos from the Valley Green gig are particularly interesting. It was a Rock Against Racism gig and, with the exception of a few young, white Punks, the crowd is predominantly African American (some of a very young age) that look in equal parts bemused or enthralled, apathetic or fervent.
The Hard Art Gallery photos are probably the most stylistic and intriguing. The shots of the crowd members show some individuals having a very finely tuned sense of Punk style (and I don’t mean studs and mohawks) although, expectedly, there are still looks of bemusement on a few faces.
The remaining gigs at Madams Organ, possibly due to the bright white room, seem to lack the cutting edge of the first two sets of photos, but there are a couple of TEEN IDLES photos and the crowd is certainly now an audience of what is now recognised as Punks.
The book closes with an essay from HENRY ROLLINS reliving his youth in DC through TEEN IDLES, and a very welcome index of the photos that puts names (some of which you should know) to the faces.
The DC scene has already spawned two classic books in Dance Of Days and Banned In DC and, while this is an aesthetically suave and visually alluring book, it doesn’t match the standard set by those two books. However, it sits as a very worthy accompaniment to those and another bibliographic addition that emphasises the intensity of what was occurring in the US Capital at that time. (21.04.15)

HARDCORE, PUNK, AND OTHER JUNK: Aggressive Sounds In Contemporary Music - Eric James Abbey and Colin Helb {230 pages, Rowman & Littlefield}
Although I’ve listed only two authors, this is actually a compendium of writings from ten different authors, but those listed in the heading are also the editors. So, we get ten pieces on a range of ‘loud’ music. While it is well written, I have to say I found a number of the pieces to be flat-out boring. I mean, a 20-page analysis of SID VICIOUS’ take on ‘My Way’? I really doubt Sid put too much thought into the ‘Melody, Harmony and Form’ of the song. Or of his performance. Or of his vocal technique. I’m pretty sure that it was just Sid being Sid and making a surprising lasting legacy - which is something that article doesn’t.
Anyway, of the better pieces in the book we get Brian Cogan (author of the Punk Encyclopedia) doing a well-researched and fluid assessment of THROBBING GRISTLE and Helb writes a concise and refreshing piece about Krishna involvement in Hardcore. Elsewhere we get Abbey looking at the Cult of HELLMOUTH and a piece about DROPKICK MURPHYS and their American-Irish hybrid hereditary (which also kinda goes nowhere). The remainder is mainly about Metal, some of which is quite readable, some of it just so analytic it should have stayed on a fucking university campus.
I’m sure a lot of work and thought has gone into this but I’m left wondering just who the hell is going to read this for pleasure? I found it really heavy going, too often to the point of tedium. Most of the authors have PhD after their name, others are University Lecturers or ‘Music Theorists’. They all seem to come from a music-loving background, but with the exception of Cogan in particular and a few others, none of them really translate that onto the page.
One for anoraks, students and, heaven help us, ‘Music Theorists'. (15.01.16)