Book Review: Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night

Richard Cabut & Andrew Gallix, 318 pgs, Zero Books,

If you know absolutely nothing about the roots of punk and are eager to learn, then I highly recommend this book. Filled with wonderful origin stories, it gives first-hand accounts of how it all really started. However, if you, like me, have read books, watched documentaries, and gone to see old punks play once more, then this book might read like something you’ve read time and time again.

As the title promises, there are indeed arguments that punk is dead. Yet most of the writers don’t even agree on where punk begins or ends, only that punk was a moment and that once others caught on, it was no longer cool. Andrew Gallix is the first in the book to say this: “My contention is that punk died (or at least that something started dying or was lost) as soon as it ceased being a cult with no names — or with several possible names, which comes to the same thing.”

This pissed me off. Punk has meant a lot to me in my life, and I’ll be damned if my experiences don’t matter because I was born in the wrong decade. All of this older generation wagging their finger and spit-talking “back in my day” made this book almost insufferable at times.

Still, some essays are interesting historical reads — such as John Ingham’s piece about touring with Patti Smith on her first European trip, or Paul Gorman on the beginning of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s punk shop, SEX. Those essays that take up the theme of the book more directly might have you grinding your teeth if you were born after 1970. In that case, you might just pick and choose the topics you want to read about and skip the whole “punk is dead” bit altogether. (Shelby Monita)