Amped: Notes From a Go-Nowhere Punk Band
Reviewed by Bill Mithoefer
Friday, October 12 2001, 8:29 AM
I never suspected that Henry Rollins would inadvertently start a whole new sub-genre of music writing with Get In The Van. I really wanted to hate Jon Resh's entry into the fray, a rather sophomoric romp through the adventures of his band Spoke in the early nineties. But Resh has written a rather entertaining, if somewhat self-righteous romp through punk rock's total codification as a rite of passage during this period. Like Get In TheVan, Amped is both a memoir and a monograph, as irritating as it is informative. At a time when a number of writers are attempting to provide a historical spin on this era ke for example Michael Azeraad's nostalgic This Band Could Be Your Life and Charles Cross's Kitty Kelly-like tell all biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven -- Amped gives us a much needed insider's perspective that Resh's better funded rock journalist brethren sorely lack.
Resh self-deprecatingly describes himself as being "endowed with a voice that sounds like a cavity-ridden muffler attached to the anus of a flatulent walrus." His description of Florida's inhabitants rings true: "Floridians have accustomed themselves to this nasty vermin [the cockroach] as just another of the Sunshine State's rogue inhabitants, not so different from its serial killers, native shit-kickers, oblivious tourists, faux-mermaids, cocaine kingpins, moron surfers, nouveau-riche snowbirds, spooky clairvoyants and Jimmy Buffet wanna-be's." This sort of quasi-suburban white-trash realism pervades the better parts of Amped, leading to the sort of guilty pleasure one might expect of the readers of a James Ellroy novel or the viewer of certain mainstream Hollywood mind-popcorn.
In Walterboro, South Carolina, we meet Priscilla, a "self-proclaimed Jewish-American princess turned chicken farmer." Resh skillfully captures the insanity of her stream of consciousness monologue:
After a gleefully enthusiastic description of an Avail gig, Resh finds himself verbally assailed by a local hipster. When a young lady finds out that he is working on a book about Spoke's touring, she laughs and says, "More fucking suburban white boys trying to write how fucking important punk rock is[.]" These types of remarks keep check on some of the more self-righteous and self-conscious portions of the book.
When it came to his own band, Resh states that "people in Gainesville's scene tagged Spoke as an 'emo' band: "we played "sincere" punk with noisy, aggressive pop leanings, influenced by Husker Du, Embrace, early Dag Nasty, Gray Matter and the undisputed progenitors of the emocore genre, Rites of Spring...if that made us 'emo,' fine. Since emocore itself wasn't yet codified -- tere was no absolute emo sound, style of dress or any real aesthetic manifesto, at least not in Florida, we didn't care." After this bout of stylistic angst, Resh proceeds to trash Hoover: "in Hoover, I was seeing a package of emo cliches that would later grow into a burgeoning musical and subcultural category, inevitably caricaturing and diluting itself."
Such silly denunciations do not obscure how intimately Amped captures many neglected aspects of everyday life in the punk community during the early '90s. If anything, these weaknesses help underline much of this book's authenticity as a first-person document written by an artist trying to figure out where they stood during an extremely awkward period in rock and roll history.
Amped is available from Viper Press