Books - S

SMASH! The ‘90s Punk Explosion - Ian Winwood {326 pages, Da Capo Press}
The spiel for this states that “1994 was the second coming of Punk” - obviously Winwood missed the 80s revolution that was CRASS and Anarcho Punk, BLACK FLAG and US Hardcore, and RITES OF SPRING and Revolution Summer to name but three. And then there’s the ‘N’ word - NIRVANA that is. There’s no doubt that the commercial explosion that was GREEN DAY and OFFSPRING in particular (along with NOFX and BAD RELIGION both of whom also form a sub-title for the book) needs to be documented and that’s exactly what Winwood has attempted here. Has it worked? Only kinda.
To start,  Winwood takes us back to Woodstock 1994 and GREEN DAY’s performance there, before an introduction that sees Billie Joe saying the old bands had ‘sold out’. It’s also in this narrative that some of Winwood’s rather odd narrative traits appear - referencing SLAYER as ‘Swivel-eyed fury’ and CIRCLE JERKS ‘Wonderful’ album as ‘woeful’.
From there the book analyses what brought about the commercial acceptance of Punk in the early 90s, with much of the basic evidence directed back to, like we didn’t know, the BAD RELIGION classic ‘Suffer’. SOCIAL DISTORTION is cited as an early forebear too, being the first LA band to sign to a major and be successful (although, another oddity, Winwood states ‘Mummy’s Little Monster’ “ not great.” Really?).
It progresses through Lookout Records and OPERATION IVY, both NOFX and GREEN DAY touring squats in Europe, BAD RELIGION signing to Atlantic (and the claim that Brian Baker turned down R.E.M. in preference to BR) and the pivotal releases of NOFX’s ‘Punk In Drublic’ and RANCID’s ‘Let’s Go’. It’s obvious that a lot of the book is taken up by GREEN DAY and OFFSPRING (who continually groan about lack of critical success when compared with their commercial success. Get over guys - you are NOT as good as most of the other bands in this book - so pipe down), and the author certainly seems to favour the latter.  The spectre of Brett Gurewitz is, quite rightly, shining throughout. Interestingly, one of the best records of the era - RANCID’s ‘Out Come The Wolves’ isn’t lauded like OFFSPRING’s stuff - but then they were the band that chose not to be involved with the book.
Winwood’s narrative is free flowing and easy to read, and he seems to have attended gigs by all of the bands - but there are a few inaccuracies such as Sean Forbes being the “frontman of WAT TYLER”, and Kim Shattuck being the bassist in THE MUFFS (maybe that’s a typo of PIXIES). Also, as hinted at early, some of the analogies and comparisons get a bit tiresome - you can barely turn a page without a statement like, “Epitaph was on its way to becoming the Tamla Motown of Punk.” Generally though, the book runs well chronologically, and while some bands are missed out completely (which Winwood makes no apologies for in his introduction; if more bands were included, the book could’ve been a behemoth), the main players are represented and represented accurately.
The book is filled out with a set of glossy pages featuring oft-seen monochrome photos and a postscript where the author plays pool with... OFFSPRING. And it was printed in Kerrang!
There’s no debate about whether this book should have been published; an accurate account of Punk’s ‘90s commercialization is most definitely needed. On the most part, this gets it right.
Will a better book be written? Quite probably yes. This may have been a stronger book had it followed the oral biography line of Gimme Something Better or Please Kill Me, allowing the bands to speak in-depth without being editted and with only connecting chapter introductions from Winwood, but as it is, it’s probably the best representation out at present - especially in terms of GREEN DAY and OFFSPRING. (29.03.19)