Monday, May 11, 2015

Book Review: Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records by Kevin Prested (Microcosm Publishing)

When I was reading this book- really before I began reading it even- I was beginning to formulate stories from my past in my head that I would tell in my review.   The fact is, when Green Day's "Dookie" exploded the world I was in my early teens and it hit me so hard that I went out and bought all of their previous music which lead me to Lookout! Records.   I have a number of stories I could tell after that, from seeing The Riverdales open for Green Day on the "Insomniac" tour or being introduced to The Mr T Experience by falling in love with the friend of my at the time girlfriend.     But what I realized when thinking of all of these sorted stories is that they don't matter, what matters is simply that they are there.

Lookout! Records was an essential part of my musical upbringing and as such, the label, the music it produced and so much more just became so personal to me.    And I feel as if everyone who listened to the bands on this label right along with me has personal stories of their own to tell.    That would make for a fascinating book in and of itself ("Lookout! Records: The Fan Stories") but this is actually the story as told by the people who were there.   The people who lived through it either by working for the label itself or simply being in a band on the label.

I can't really compare this with anything.    It's the people behind one of my favorite labels telling stories about one of my favorite labels.   This is my favorite kind of non-fiction.   This is what interests me most of all when it comes to reading (Well, music and baseball).    This is what they should be teaching the kids in school, not "Animal Farm".

But this isn't really uncharted territory, in the means by which it is delivered.    There are a number of other books out there conducted in a similar style, most of which I have read.   I can think of at least two I've read about punk rock and one that I read about post-punk.   The difference between those books though and this one is that here, mostly all of the players are involved because they are still alive.   Most older punk books talk about Sid Vicous but never have his words because he was gone too soon.   Post-punk books talk about Ian Curtis but same thing as with Sid.

Looking back, reading all of these stories, makes me feel old.   I can't believe I was experiencing most of this in my early and late teenage years- literally from when I was about 13 or 14 until my twenties was when this impacted me most- and yet here I am, old enough to run for president and still cranking that Operation Ivy album.    It just feels like we are far enough removed from that time period, but yet not so far past it that those involved are no longer able to talk about it.    And that is really the best time to write these books-- not decades after everyone is already dead.

Lookout! Records was one of the first three record labels that impacted my life and shaped me into the person I am today because it is just so much the foundation of every single thing that I am musically.  If it wasn't for Lookout! Records, I probably wouldn't be writing about music right now.   But this isn't just about a way of getting further into what makes me tick and why I write the way that I do.   This is about a movement.   A piece of time, of history, that will never be replicated simply because we have come too far with our technology.

I love that this book exists.   I want to read it again and again.  I want my son to read it when he's old enough.   I want him to pass it down to his children to read.  I want this to be the new standard for text books.  I want the world to know.

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