Thursday, August 1, 2013

Left of the Dial: Conversations with Punk Icons by David Ensinger

( I have to open this review with an apology: I have put off writing about this because I like it so much I hoped to place a review in a major periodical or take so much time on my review that I could fully articulate why I dig it. Alas, no luck on the pitches, and now I’m up against Roctober’s deadline and I just have to give a brief impression of why this kicks ass. If Ensinger had merely curated this lineup of interviewees for a regular rock n roll anecdote book it would be groundbreaking: Ian, Jello, Mike Watt, Keith Morris, those are obvious choices, often interviewed. but necessary, but throw some curve balls (Captain Sensible, El Vez, Peter Case), some crucial journeymen (Vic Bondi, Shawn Stern, Jack Grisham) and inspired choices (how often do MDC, Strike Anywhere, Dicks, Angry Samoans, and Agent Orange make it into the punk history pages where they belong?). But what makes this special is Ensinger isn’t just having them tell the same war stories or funny anecdotes or greatest hits, or “how did you write this song”; he is asking people involved in a genre that’s about philosophy and ethos with a special history questions about ideas, explorations of history that reaches back before 1977, and thoughtful questions about aging and maturing, about the role of visual art, about intergenrational communication, about protest. Maybe I’m biased because these are all subjects I really like to hear talk, but what’s more important is despite my familiarity with them, in these pages I’m getting to hear them say things I’ve never heard from them before.

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