We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988–2001 traces the history of a handful of underground, somewhat disconnected groups woven together by sound, attitude, and influence—"gunk punk" bands—active from the mid-1980s through the early aughties. Um, disconnected as in generally these bands weren't easily shoehorned into any of the prominent underground (hardcore/indie) scenes that developed during the 1980s. A "garage punk" ("gunk punk") scene eventually coalesced in the mid 1990s, but early on, the bands were marginalized since the "musicians" were obsessive weirdos deeply in love with past sounds. They weren't political, heavy, fast, or arty; they mashed 1950s/1960s/1970s R&B/rock/pop together and regurgitated it in a sweat-drenched, reckless, fearlessly entertaining, and stanky beer belch! Um, you know... these bands were about the good ol' ROCK 'n' ROLL way of balls-out rocking AND a'rollin'!
None of that "rock" shit sat well with the "antirock" REJECTION of "rock culture" types populating hardcore/indie scenes at the time. So this history is dead-on. Eric Davidson's candor is cheeky and knowing... obviously he was there (he fronted the New Bomb Turks), but he doesn't get too record-nerdy with details, gushy with the band and label-head interviews (genius Billy Childish interview, BTW!!), or heavy with the editorializing. He also sums up the context of the 1980s underground before the media blew up "grunge/alternative" or whatever you wanna call it... yeah, Nirvana was just ANOTHER post-hardcore long-hair underground band like the rest (so GET OVER IT! M'kay?!). For all the groups Davidson discusses in the run-up, I love that he puts weight on Pussy Galore's influence. Today, everyone considers the Gories the pivot, but no one heard the Gories in 1990 without making a Pussy Galore comparison! We Never Learn is a solid, well-rounded roundup of what went on, and it is a MUCH-needed bit of fact and context NOT in wacky "Wiki" form... stick that in your King Khan and suck it.
On Tues June 29, Eric Davidson signs books at Easy Street Records Queen Anne, 3 pm; reading, DVD showing, and Q&A at Snoose Junction Greenwood, 8 pm.