The Truth of Revolution, Brother: An Exploration of Punk Philosophy (Situation Press) is an interesting look at many of the common philosophies within the rebellious genre and it also acts as a biography for some of its key figures. Through a series of interviews authors Lisa Sofianos, Robin Ryde and Charlie Waterhorse, have crafted an insightful and at times dense examination of the personal beliefs that fuel the music, particularly in anarcho-punk.
Culled from over 20 different interviews with subjects including the likes of former Dead Kennedy’s vocalist Jello Biafra, producer Steve Albini and firebrand Gavin McInnes, The Truth of Revolution, Brother feels like a great documentary that hasn’t been shot yet. Punk isn’t just music, for the faithful it’s an unshakable bond that informs all of their daily decisions. It was an artistic liberation because it wasn’t the usual prog and arena rock that permeated the 1970s. If you had something to say now you can now express yourself even if you can’t play your instrument very well or have a record label to back you up. All the weirdos were allowed.
“Punk changed the whole world for me,” says Albini. “Punk changed all of my friends. Everything that I do with my life. This studio. All of this that I am doing for a living. Everyone I know. Every significant friend I’ve ever had. Every significant life experience that I have had, I owe that to the Ramones.”
However, it is also quick to point out that while punk was the undiscriminating genre when it came to musical prerequisites, age or sex; it is also very much steeped in hierarchy as you are allowed to come in and participate only if you wear the right boots and black shirts. The prevailing Do-It-Yourself ethos acts as the backbone that allows punk to stand, but also means that there is less focus on quality control as anyone can come in and take a swing at it. Doing it yourself can sometimes lead to doing it badly.
But for me what was most interesting about this tome is that so many of the interviewed always pointed to anarcho-punk trailblazers Crass as one of their main inspirations and the reason for adopting the punk lifestyle. The consensus is that they were the first punk band to adopt the DIY mantra, foster pro-environmentalist habits and call for everyone to drop competiveness out of their nature in order to improve the community.
“What is so deeply emotional for me about Crass, in particular, is that when I was sent to the correctional boarding school I was completely alone” says Jon Gnarr. “And I was so afraid that I carried a knife. I felt so alone, and there was nobody to tell me right from wrong, there weren’t even teachers at that place, so at a very difficult time in my life, Crass was there for me.” Feeling dissatisfied with his government’s handling of the 2008 Icelandic financial crisis, Gnarr would use some of that punk influence and form the satirical Best Party. In a shocking upset Gnarr ran and was elected mayor of Reykjavík in 2010.
So many other of the interview subjects continuously cite the short lived anarchist bent Essex unit, that it starts to feel like that you are getting an oral history of the band. Adding to that feel are insightful chapters directly from former Crass members Steve Ignorant, Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher.
Something worth noting is that with so many citing the same artists and similar philosophies as vital the book can begin to feel a tad repetitive towards the middle, but all things considered it shines a bright light on the inner machinations of one of rock’s most extreme wings. Now if we could only get that complete Crass biography.