Roots Punk: A Visual and Oral History

Univ. Pr. of Mississippi. Nov. 2023. 277p. ISBN 9781496848420. pap. $35. MUSIC
Ensminger’s (Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation) deft new book looks beneath the surface of punk rock as a fashion statement. Punk is an attitude and willingness to flaunt the rules dictated by society or, in the case of music, pare down a song to its basic roots, while presenting one’s own influences and “obsessions.” By the 1980s, bands in the United States and England started to combine folk, jazz, country, doo-wop, reggae, ska, and blues, creating a new rock subgenre that defied an easy explanation except to say that it had a punk edge. The author examines this mashup of punk rock and “roots” music by showcasing DIY imagery of the era with a string of interviews with “roots punk” innovators such as T.S.O.L., El Vez, Mike Watt, and the Blasters. He makes a strong argument that the punk ethos has continued to last by metamorphosing into music that continues to defy genre boundaries.
VERDICT A compelling examination of punk rock and the history of modern music.
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