ECW Press Canada's underground indie heroes of the past decade -- Arcade…
- Posted on Jul 19th 2010 4:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
As refreshing as it was to see, say, Rocket from the Crypt getting some MTV love, the revolution proved short-lived, failing to prevent the late-decade rap-rock craze. 'We Never Learn,' then, raises the question: Other than a handful of great records, what does the "gunk punk" movement, as Davidson calls it, have to show for itself.
"Well, that's a pretty good thing to show for it," Davidson, a longtime music journalist and former lead singer of genre heavies the New Bomb Turks, tells Spinner.
But there may be more to it than that. Davidson suspects the artists he chose to profile -- everyone from iconoclastic English madman Billy Childish to '50s-inspired New York City sleaze balls the Raunch Hands -- will somehow inspire the next generation of guitar-playing miscreants.
"I don't know how influence and that kind of thing is going to happen in the digital age," Davidson says. "I remember buying the first Velvet Underground reissues in 1985. It was the first time they were available since 1970, or whatever, unless you had them or could find them. And I remember how exciting that was, especially living in Ohio. 'This is awesome!' you know? And now, you're going to find a bit torrent or whatever. No one is ever going to reissue [obscure music], and it's never going to be as exciting."
One thing he can say with certainty: The heroes of 'We Never Learn' were true believers: rock-obsessed weirdoes willing to work for beer and sleep on floors. With minimal industry support, these musicians managed to see the world, booking themselves into German squats, cushy Netherlands nightclubs and dangerously oversold Japanese basements. In between tours, they combed the racks at independent record shops, the centers of their local scenes, blowing what cash they had on obscure punk singles.
Davidson -- who, given the book's wealth of funny, coherent stories, seems to have spent the '90s more sober than many of his friends -- says "gunk" is less a sound than a spirit, one all of the bands he interviewed shared in common.
"The best I can say about these bands is I think there's a kind of -- really, this is horrible -- 'the devil may care' is the only thing popping into my head," Davidson says. "That's a really awful, '30s-sounding thing to say, but [it's about] a trashy aesthetic of just f---ing having fun, playing a show on a stage without worrying if something is going to happen to you physically or artistically the next day in the newspaper -- just doing something and really letting loose."