Book Reviews
Nov 27, 2006, 04:59

GOING UNDERGROUND: AMERICAN PUNK 1979-1992 by George Hurchalla; Zuo Press

It's a considerable challenge to analyze and report on a memoir cloaked as some kind of document of the punk scene. I read it and hear of the author's dull-ass take on the music and how it affected him, his older brother, his pals, and I have to say that I really don't give a fuck.

My disinterest goes so far as to have, over the past couple of months, generated this dead copy:

A sincere look at a scene that has been covered ad nauseum, Going Underground blends first-person narrative from Hurchalla and the amazing web of fanzines that did a great job of documenting the scene as it evolved and dissolved into sameness.

At the same time, there isn't anything new here. LA punk was led by Black Flag and kicked ass until Rollins came along. The Butthole Surfers were funny and weird and good. Yup, Dischord Records was revolutionary because it passed its mostly-crap catalog for cheap. And Channel 3 did have some good lyrics, primarily because someone in the band had a literary germ, unlike their peers Bad Religion or TSOL.

It may be that this story is hard to tell. Please Kill Me is probably the best book about a scene ever written, due to the volume of interviews and also to the subject matter. Those were on-the-edge subjects—the NYC first generation punks—that adhered to the rock and roll standards of drink and drug to drop—but when the second generation of punk came in with its rules and under-aged stupidity, the standards changed.

In with the new, strip-mall friendly punk rock where everybody cadged money from the folks and drove to the shows, and out with the down-and-out hard scrabble and search for something just…beyond what anyone else was doing.

Author Hurchalla, who was in some fashion connected to the tepid South Florida scene, although you can't tell in what way, weaves a nice history but adds little. I liked the tale of Gun Club's show in Florida. It's funny and came from an empathetic audience perspective.

And the history of the Bad Brains is well researched. Yes, the Biscuit/Big Boys episode is covered in all its sick detail. They stole pot from him, called him a “blood-clot faggot” and remains to this day, a distasteful blemish on the Bad Brain's legacy.

Where did the Effigies play and what impact did they have? Who came though the Midwest in those early days and what was the reaction? And do we really ever, ever, need to hear Jello Biafra blabbing again?

OK, I was trying to play it straight and be kind. But this George fellow has worn my ass out, along with the dumb fuck who wrote American Hardcore and all the ass clowns who helped him make it into a movie. All of these are missing the mark in the worst way: via self-absorbed interpretation with no personal observance. As much as I hate to say it, Henry Rollins, that ass-kissing, name-dropping self-promoter who has never missed a chance to tell us HIS opinion of anything, has done the best job of documenting what was really going on during a snatch of the era in his book Get In The Van. Read it and dig it. And in the meantime, miss these amateur hour stabs at revisionist history.


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