Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation

Rock & roll books from Austin to Beijing

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Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation

by David A. Ensminger
University Press of Mississippi, 336 pp., $35 (paper)

In the beginning, it was a black-and-white world – and it was good. Malcolm McLaren, quoted at the beginning of first chapter, "The Second Skin of Cities," notes that punk rock posters "were a declaration of war against art," as David A. Ensminger's exhaustive, frisson-inducing tome presents them. Even an idle flip-through explodes the aging Austin punk rawk memory banks: full-color repros of Randy "Biscuit" Turner's Left of the Dial covers, a frenetic Big Boys/Red Rockers Raul's gig from December 1980, the legendary Hickoids "screaming face of Lisa" flier from an early 1980s one-off in Spicewood. Predating today's four-color flood-tide of gig poster overkill, Visual Vitriol re-proves the original DIY ethos in all its smeary, two-tone glory, trumpeting that information about gigs wants to be free, and its Xerox corollary, William Gibson's statement that "The street finds its own uses for things." Ensminger accompanies the endless summer of wheat-pasted wonders with a chunky, equally eye-popping running commentary that traces the origins and rapid spread of late-1970s to mid-1980s punk visual discourse, when Maximum Rocknroll's "Book Your Own Fucking Tour" was the newsprint tour bible and every punker worth his straight-laced oxblood Docs spent what little downtime he had covering his bedroom walls in a continually changing, floor-to-ceiling, cut-and-paste mirror of stapled postshow memories. Predating the mass media maw, this is the raw history of punk and hardcore, (killing) from the heart, black and white and true. Essential.

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