The fact that most music-related “tell-all” books are so full of nauseating self-importance that they’re hard to enjoy should probably be common knowledge to anyone who has ever read one. No matter how much of a historical footnote the band is (American Hardcore author Steven Blush was in No Trend), you usually end up with page after page of “look how great and important we were.” I’ve read more than one book claiming that the Doors were the godfathers of LA punk rock without explaining why, and it’s impossible to read anything about X without the writer blowing his load proclaiming the far and wide influence that band had over music without naming a single band that shows such an influence. Having said that, it’s quite a breath of fresh air to read a book that starts off one chapter with, “The sound I make when ‘singing’ could be mistaken for a lion puking into a megaphone.”
Jon Resh has no delusions about the historical importance (or lack thereof) of his band Spoke, a staple of the early ‘90s central Florida punk scene and one of the first bands to be released by No Idea Records. If anything, he may be a little too critical of himself and his bandmates, but that’s neither here nor there. Despite having never heard a note of Spoke’s music, I thought Amped was really entertaining and interesting, filled with a true passion for DIY punk rock that is often missing from punk rock memoirs. Whether he’s talking about a tour of Florida with Radon (oddly enough, one of my favorite bands) or the tight-knit crowd at the now-defunct Hardback Café in Gainesville, it’s always about the music and how the music made him feel like he was a part of something. Instead of saying, “One time we played a show with Quicksand. That’s how good we were,” he shares an anecdote about the show, how he and his bandmates decided that it would be a good idea to set up the drumset at the opposite end of the club. When that idea goes horribly wrong, they just kind of shrug and laugh it off.
The book also shows the fine line between punk bands that love the music and bands that are trying to use punk as a jumping off point for mainstream success. One of the best parts of the book is when Spoke was booked to play a show with Nuisance and Seven Year Bitch. He recalls the promoter and the guys in Nuisance as being nothing but cool, but that Seven Year Bitch “spoke to us with a vague condescension specific to ‘bands on the rise.’” Among other things, he goes on to say that their manager kept name-dropping people involved with all those crappy grunge bands from the early ‘90s. At the end of the show when it was time to pay the bands, Seven Year Bitch complained about how the promoter ripping them off, despite the fact that it was a Wednesday night show and only about two hundred people showed up. The promoter had paid them all the door money and then paid money out of his own pocket to meet their guarantee. When they pressed him for more money, he threw his wallet at them and said, “Here. That’s all I have. Now go buy your heroin.” It was a perfect example of wannabe rock stars taking advantage of honest, hard-working people in the punk scene.
As far as aesthetics go, Jon Resh must be some kind of graphic genius. The cover looks awesome, the layout looks pretty nifty; basically, this book is a nice piece of eye candy. On top of this being a great book about a band that did everything just for the hell of it, it’s dirt cheap, too, so I can’t think of a higher recommendation. –Josh ($4.50 from Viper Press, PO Box 3394, Chicago, IL 60690-3394)