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We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001 (Book) Paperback – June 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 19882001 is the first and only book on the last great wave of punk rock. Musician and journalist Eric Davidson (Village Voice, CMJ, SF Bay Guardian) was there as this scene unfolded, tracking the inspiration and beautiful destruction of this largely undocumented movement. The Black Lips, the late Jay Reatard, The Dirtbombs, the White Stripes, the Reigning Sound, and the Hives (to name but a few) all sprang from an underground music scene where similarly raw bands, enjoying various degrees of success and hard luck, played in venues ranging from dive bars to massive festivals, but were mostly ignored by a music industry focused on mega-bands and shiny pop stars. They reveled in '50s rock 'n' roll and '60s garage rock as much as they did Iggy Pop, the Ramones, and Black Flag, while creating their own wave of gut-busting riffs and rhythm.

The majority of bands that populate this book the Dwarves, the Gories, the Supersuckers, the Mummies, the Oblivians, Billy Childish, Rocket From The Crypt, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Cheater Slicks, Teengenerate, and the Donnas among them gained little long-term reward from their nonstop touring and brain-slapping records. What they did get was free liquor, good drugs, guilt-free sex, and a crazy good time, all the while building a dedicated fan base that extends across America, Europe, and Japan.

About the Author

Eric Davidson had his share of sleazy good times and success as the singer of the Columbus, Ohio punk band New Bomb Turks, who have played hundreds of gigs in dozens of countries on three continents and countless labels.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Backbeat Books (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879309725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879309725
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,034,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a good book which could have been a 5 star book- it's not.
I like Eric's writing. This is a great concept for a book, and he has tons of knowledge on the subject. The problem is the editing and organization of the large scope of information he is covering. He is writing about so many bands, record labels and people, and it's all blended together; too much scattered information to take in on each page. I find this book is hard to read front to back, I kept skipping around. It's draining and confusing when he is rattling off so many bands, record labels and scene people, often in the same page. I'll be enjoying reading about a band for a page or 2, then he flits off on another tangent. I think this book should have covered the bands more in depth. A chapter on each band, record label or person ,done chronologically, would have made it so much easier and enjoyable to read and digest the information.
I still recommend this book. I think its strongest point is it's a good way to discover bands and record labels to check out that you may not know about.
I think Eric Davidson has it in him to make a totally killer classic music book. Eric, I have an idea for you: A book on the history of Ohio punk. Ohio has an incredible punk history full of overlooked amazing bands, one of the greatest in America. He mentions the Electric Eels in this book, a 'proto punk' band which from what I've heard were very important and influential yet few people know who they are. The Pagans also come to mind as a great Ohio band most people don't know about. To end this on a positive note, in case you don't know, the author is singer for the New bomb turks, a band from Columbus ohio who are an absolutely blistering, killer punk rock band, especially their first 2 albums are amazing, check them out!!!!
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...it could have used a bit more more work, either by it being longer or less 'comprehensive'- trying to cover too many 'scenes' is a big mistake of the book. The more rounded-out sections, such as the ones on the Gories, the Devil Dogs,Pussy Galore and the Gibson Brothers are both great info and fun to read. On the other hand, the sections on The Lazy Cowgirls, the Cheater Slicks and Dead Moon are absurdly short given how important both bands were and are (the 'Slicks are still at it!) Also, the manner in which Davidson attempts to wrap it all up feels sloppy and slapdash.

Also, many important underground rock bands are overlooked completely because they do not fit into the 'garage punk' category. Which as it turns out (and this is what make the book the most informative) was created by none other than Tim Warren, who did more for shaping and moulding the Garage Punk sound than anyone else. As the book reveals, the Gories got their sound by listening to 'Back from the Grave' compilations, which was issue by Warren's Crypt label. The 'Gunk Punk' label is Davidson's make-believe moniker, and that is it.

In spite of the faults, I would still recommend this book for anyone interested in music from the era. As far as I know, no other books have been written on this subject.
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As a fan of a lot of the bands covered in the book, as well as the author's, I thought I'd give it a try. Clearly based on books like Our Band Could Be Your Life and the two oral history progenitors Please Kill Me and We've Got The Neutron Bomb, the book takes a look at the parallel alternative music scene that was lumped under the "punk" rubric alongside the political rantings of mohawked teenagers like GBH and Rancid, but found its inspiration more from 60s garage madness like The Sonics and Screamin Lord Sutch than FEAR or Subhumans.

The chapters don't seem to really follow any sort of linear movement, so the book doesn't swell to anything. It just kind of stops. The oral interviews that segment the chapters drop in and cut off in confusing places since often times they have little or nothing to do with the text going on around them. There really isn't any linkage from one point to another. Secondly, there really is little information about the Gunk Punk Undergut at all. Mostly, we get a lot of information about Tim Warren of Crypt records and his various destructive personal affectations/personality, and a lot of information about the band The Devil Dogs, but if you're looking for a chronicle of the "other indie", that Indie rock that spawned during this era, with these groups, not as a musical style as Indie Rock tends to be fronted as today, with the same budgets and promo/press pushes as their mainstream brethren (since a lot of Indie rock bands today are on major labels anyways, not that the label a record comes out on necessarily matters one iota), then this book might give you a little bit of insight as to what it was like to sleep on a floor back then...if that floor was in Tim Warren's house in Germany, and if you were in the Devil Dogs while doing it, but, otherwise, maybe just go revisit the records.
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I've seen the New Bomb Turks live a dozen times or so and when I caught wind of this book from a former Teengenerate member's blog, I had to check it out. Davidson's got a great turn of phrase and his writing style is both polysyllabic and accessible. Not quite a thinking man's Please Kill Me, just more intelligent sounding. Collegiate, if you will. Am I even allowed to say that? Dilligaf.

In reading, you might find yourself reference checking the way a record collector's "record collector" knows more than you ever will and you just pick up some new stuff as you go along. A lot of the honorable mentions and also-rans in this book are scattered about in my own record collection so it's good to know you weren't the only loser feverishly mailing in money orders or cash (pre-Ebay & Paypal) to grab up some low-pressing copy of some inept, 3-chord noise from a band no one's ever heard of and probably never will unless they read this book. But there were these niches within niches and that gets a good deal of fleshing out here which is good. Many of the bands that Davidson mentions toured many places and countries long before more famous bands were around for even a year. Even the Mummies know that a reunion show will only work in Japan ([...]). Who else would see them in the 21st century that's even heard of them?

I recall many of the stories in this book during the time of I would call the 2nd wave of garage rock influenced by people too young to have "been there" when punk exploded on the scene during the mid-70s but old enough to have started their own bands and been influenced by the 1st-wavers. Gunk punk? Maybe, I don't know. I'm no expert but I know what Davidson means by it.
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