We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut 1988-2001 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, December 5th, 2023  

Eric Davidson

We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut 1988-2001

Published by Backbeat Books

Feb 17, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Here is a new printing of a book originally published in 2011 with a different cover and now with 35 new photos, a download code for a 20 song sampler featuring bands from the book, and a new preface and postscript from the author, singer and freelance writer, longtime New Yorker, and all-around man about town Eric Davidson of New Bomb Turks, Columbus, OH’s finest practitioners of scuzzy garage punk. And as such, given its title, this book covers the Turks’ story in conjunction with the “gunk punk” (the author’s term) scenes starting up all over the country with the story of the many, many other bands (everyone from well-known bands who ended up signing with major labels like LA’s Muffs to ‘80s pioneers like NYC’s Raunch Haunds and Detroit’s Gories), all of whom paved the way for the eventual mainstream co-opting of the potent ‘90s garage rock explosion (the stories of important labels like Sympathy for the Record Industry, Crypt, and Estrus, both crucial to the scene, are also told here in great length, as are the tales of uber-influential ‘90s stalwarts like The Dwarves, Supersuckers, Devil Dogs and The Hellacopters along with OG influences like The Cramps) in the 2000s with the success of The White Stripes, The Hives, and many other bands. In fact, label heads like Crypt’s Tim Warren and Sympathy’s “Long Gone” John Mermis prove to be as interesting (if not more so) than many of the musicians covered, Warren in particular almost acting as a muse or guiding light throughout the book and a rock star himself in terms of his excesses and behavior, almost like the late Terry Tolkin in Dean Wareham’s excellent Black Postcards autobiography, which makes for very entertaining reading.

All in all, this is a necessary book, particularly for those who missed it the first time around and even for those who got it as a reminder once again, correcting a previously undocumented (at least in book form, not counting the many excellent fanzines like Gearhead that documented this scene heavily, also covered here) scene that was not only crucial and influential to the 2000s rock explosion, but maybe the last gasp of mainstream acceptance for raw, real, unfiltered rock and roll, though perhaps that time is here again with breakout acts from last year like Wet Leg, The Linda Lindas, and others all playing punk rock and selling lots of records, too, and The Cramps being featured in an iconic dance scene on a popular Netflix show being currently watched by millions.

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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