This tome is 419 pages of collected journalistic pieces covering the years
from 1977 -1996. His waterfront is art, pop, the media and sexuality and the
jacket defines it as spanning "from the Sex Pistols to Nirvana", an A to Z
of punk’s journey through 20 years. But nothing in this collection resonates
with the visceral excitement conjured by these two names.
The articles reproduced here start with the writer’s work at Sounds magazine
in the late 1970’s and work through the following years in the Face the New
Statesman, the Observer, Sight and Sound, the Guardian and Mojo. The book
is split into three sections: Punk, Style and Speed. The first of these
stands out as quite the most boring 96 pages I’ve encountered in years. It
traces the minutiae of British Rock ‘n’ Roll/ Pop with an intense, bookish
disregard for humour, insight or any attempt to make the prose reflect the
jarring bug-eyed wonder of the many bands and individuals mentioned here.
No attempt seems to have been made by contemporary editors to focus the
pieces; instead the author meanders along producing arid theories and
articles that are no tribute to the vital mesmerising subjects such as
Throbbing Gristle, Pere Ubu and Joy Divison.
The remaining two sections are far more readable and will provide useful
reference to Pop culture buffs wanting contemporary pieces on iconic figures
ranging from Malcolm McClaren to Byork via Morrisey and Boy George.
Although concise and readable they are commonplace and unremarkable.
At its best this collection makes a handy Pop reference book for 1997-1995
and a passable pillow for the beach; at its worst it makes you want to tie
the unwieldy thing to your leg and jump into a lake. Rock ‘n’ Roll and style
prose have been far more memorably and entertainingly repackaged by Nick
Kent, Charles Shaar Murrary and Peter York and in his Faber Book of Pop – by
Jon Savage himself.
Reviewed by Peter Rodgers