Book Reviews: American Hardcore and Touchable Sound

Performer is dedicated to serving, and reporting on, the independent musician in America. As such, we’d be remiss if we did not highlight two recently published books that directly address the DIY culture in this country.

First up is American Hardcore: A Tribal History by Steven Blush. If the title sounds familiar, it’s because this is actually the second edition of Blush’s monumental undertaking. Compiling first-hand interviews and countless stories from those who were there, the second edition of this now-classic is like a whole new book. With the advent of the Internet, Blush was able to expand on nearly everything, and in turn has made the reference guide for hardcore music in America even more essential.

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Combining his own treasure trove of artifacts (tour posters, rare photographs, 7-inch singles and more) with first-hand stories from the scene’s biggest players (Ian MacKay, Mike Watt, Mike Ness, Glenn Danzig, Jello Biafra – the list is endless), Blush expertly chronicles the early American hardcore and punk scenes that practically invented the DIY mindset. The fact that so many of these stories are still relevant, and that these DIY touring models are still being practiced today is a testament to the pioneer-like trailblazing that these luminaries are responsible for.

The book is jam-packed with impossibly rare live photos, tour posters, zine reproductions and vinyl cover art. In fact, the collection of photos is worth the cover price alone. For those seeking a better understanding of one of music’s most important (and underappreciated) eras, look no further than American Hardcore.

Next up is the beautifully designed Touchable Sound: A Collection of 7-Inch Records From The USA. Much like its title suggests, this wonderfully laid out collection takes a look at the 7-inch from an artistic perspective, as opposed to a musical one. A great companion piece to accompany American Hardcore, Touchable Sound is essentially 400 pages of porn for vinyl junkies. Featuring hundreds of obscure 7-inch records from around the country, the editors cleverly divided the book into geographic sections, tackling the country one region at a time.

Nearly every featured piece of vinyl has a helpful description of the artistic processes that went into its creation (design, printing techniques, etc) as well as a background on the artist, if applicable. What’s great is that the focus isn’t on well-known acts, rather it sets its sights almost exclusively on unknown bands and artists who have released 7-inch vinyl in the past 20 years. For any band out there contemplating a 7-inch release, this collection would provide an invaluable source for creative inspiration and tips.

Together, American Hardcore and Touchable Sound celebrate the independent artist in America, and recount the tales that would otherwise go (unjustly) forgotten by the mainstream press. Both books are available this month, and each would make a perfect holiday gift for that musician in your life.

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