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Matt Diehl - My So-Called Punk [book] (Cover Artwork)

Matt Diehl

Matt Diehl: My So-Called Punk [book]My So-Called Punk [book] (2007)
St. Martin's Griffin

Reviewer Rating: 1.5


Contributed by: CosCos
(others by this writer | submit your own)

My So-Called Punk is a hard book to critique, mostly because there isn't an idea or central figure to weigh in on. Perhaps author Matt Diehl's biggest sin is that he casts his net too wide and lets the important details get away. From what I can tell, My So-Called Punk is about Green Day's rise and .


My So-Called Punk is a hard book to critique, mostly because there isn't an idea or central figure to weigh in on. Perhaps author Matt Diehl's biggest sin is that he casts his net too wide and lets the important details get away. From what I can tell, My So-Called Punk is about Green Day's rise and fall and rise, the awesomeness of the Warped Tour, that taking off their clothes to reveal tattoos and piercings makes the Suicide Girls revolutionary, that punks just repeat stuff from other punk bands and use the Internet a lot. Duh.

Oh, and the Distillers are quite possibly the most important punk band since the Clash. Whaaaa?

So much of the book is Brody this and Brody that. If Diehl wanted to write a Brody Dalle biography (and according to an interview with slushpile.net, this was the publisher's original intention), he should have renamed it that and moved on. To sucker everyone else into thinking that this book would be a comprehensive look on the post-Green Day punk world and how we got here is at best extremely misleading and at worst deliberately deceitful.

Given My So-Called Punk's origins, it's too bad that Dalle doesn't have the record sales and influence to match her outsized personal life. Most of the other bands with smaller profiles in the book have sold more records -- NOFX, Fall Out Boy and hell, even Simple Plan. Worse still, Brody and whomever her back-up band haven't done anything since 2003. My So-Called Punk was published in 2007 and Dalle hadn't put out a record in four years at that point. Currently, we're at five years and counting. Not the best ride to hitch your wagon to.

As window dressing, there's lots of filler that doesn't really offer up any reflections, critiques or theories about these modern day phenomena. The Suicide Girls? The founders think it's great! The Warped Tour? Kevin Lyman thinks it rocks! Simple Plan? Hey, their drummer says they're totally punk, so they must be! A few of the chapters have no basic form, either. Chapters 5 through 7 could probably be one uber-chapter about something, instead of three chapters about…well, whatever they're supposed to be about.

The big, BIG questions about "neo-punk" (and sweet Jesus, I hate that term) go unexplored. Whether it's Commercialism vs. Conformity, Sexism and the Legacy of Riot Grrl (Bikini Kill is barely mentioned), the homogeneity of the current punk sound, the all-around cultural conservatism that seems to surround punk…. None of these issues are at all adequately examined. The fact that sexism is essentially glossed over in particular is a glaring omission, given the book's focus on the plight of Brody Dalle. When Diehl actually addresses the bigger issues, it's mostly shallow cheerleading about how punk is so tolerant and diverse.

As an added cherry on top, My So-Called Punk offers up a litany of typos, factual errors and just plain lazy reporting. Bad Brains are referred to as "Bad Brain's," Hellcat is sometimes HellCat. Hermosa Beach is not in Los Angeles County as Diehl states (I think he got it confused with Huntington Beach), Social Distortion is credited with having their first hit in a song called "Bad Habit" (that's the Offspring, dude -- SD's song is called "Bad Luck" and it wasn't their first hit), and the Sex Pistols were managed by someone named Malcolm McClaren, apparently. However, perhaps the most glaring omission of all is the absence of Rancid from the story. While Lars and Tim are prominently featured on the cover, Diehl never interviewed any member of Rancid. Given the Brody-centric view of the book and the importance of Rancid to her story, would an interview with one member of Rancid be too much to ask for?

Maybe I've got this all wrong. Maybe My So-Called Punk is just filthy lucre. Maybe Matt Diehl just grabbed the advance for hookers and blow and threw the publishing house this pile of formless words. I fear, however, that the truth is much, much worse. The truth is that My So-Called Punk is written by someone who just doesn't "get it" and didn't make much of an effort in the first place. Throughout the entire book, Diehl barely skims the surface of his topics. The whole thing just serves as a great big pep rally for the punk scene and reads like a collection of fluff pieces strung together with the life story of a B-list punk singer. Because who cares about anyone's motivations? It's just punk, maaaaaaaaaaaan! In the end, My So-Called Punk fails because it says so little about a subject that is much more important than its author is willing to admit.

 


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
skitzo (November 22, 2008)

this book sucks so fucking bad i'm still mad about it a year later.

ConsumedByMusic (October 14, 2008)

There's enough smart people in the punk scene that finding someone to write an informative but critical book on aspects of the punk movement shouldn't be that hard.

bluexmaslights (October 13, 2008)

this looks like a shitty ass book

scientistrock (October 13, 2008)

He cites Hot Water Music as one of the bands that just sort of followed Green Day, and refers to the Warped Tour as "bringing the Fugazi ethic to the masses." Matt Diehl can go get fucked.

averybadjoke (October 13, 2008)

"Hell, even on this website if a band has a woman as a singer that fact alone gets mentioned more than the actual music."

I mean, look at Max Bemis.

jesse (October 12, 2008)

Let me just say I addressed the situation way back when I was still trying to do a shitty weekly comic for this site:

http://www.punknews.org/article/23369

Case closed.

SlowStupidHungry (October 12, 2008)

"Do they talk at all about how they're on the forefront of feminism while working for right wing assholes?"

Trying to find more out about this... Can't.

kevinh (October 12, 2008)

Ugh, taking off your clothes for a camera is NOT in any way a form of feminism no matter how you try to justify it. If anything, it's just perpetuating the idea that women are something to be ogled and that their sexuality should be commodified like it's something you can own.

I'm probably going to get blasted for this, but feminism is NOT about choice. It's about creating a social hierarchy where women aren't looked at as ex-girlfriends, potentially naked bodies, and gimmicks before actually being viewed as a person. Hell, even on this website if a band has a woman as a singer that fact alone gets mentioned more than the actual music.

Just because a woman chooses to participate in something doesn't automatically qualify it for feminism. Sorry about the rant.

Cos (October 11, 2008)

Sorry. I think I meant to say is that Hermosa Beach is not in Orange County.... I don't have an editor either.

Rastid (October 11, 2008)

i still fucking love the distillers. score is for the distillers (FINE also for the good review)

the_other_scott (October 11, 2008)

hermosa beach is most definitely in los angeles county.

too bad this book sucks, i was looking forward to it. maybe that 1994 documentary will be better...

strungoutferriswheel (October 11, 2008)

excellent review

nameless (October 10, 2008)

This book was absolutely terrible. I wanted to shove it in the garbage disposal.

Cos (October 10, 2008)

Blink has never been a favorite of mine, but I'm guessing the reason why their music seems good right now right now is that their Descendents (*cough cough*) are polluting the airwaves with essentially shitty versions of stuff like Blink. Next to a band like Panic! At The Disco, Blink sounds like Minor Threat.

mattramone (October 10, 2008)

"Best thing was how the author slammed blink-182 (who were a band for 13 years but don't get any recognition besides insults in the book) but favored quotes from Simple Plan's band members..."

Dunno how well this will go over, but time has been very kind to Blink 182. I heard "Adam's Song" for the first time in years the other day and thought, "huh! What a fucking good song! I don't remember it being this good."

I can't imagine anyone feeling that way about Escape the Fate in ten years.

deadxlast (October 10, 2008)

This review is spot on.

Best thing was how the author slammed blink-182 (who were a band for 13 years but don't get any recognition besides insults in the book) but favored quotes from Simple Plan's band members...

Cos (October 10, 2008)

@yuppiepunk: I had a huge list of factual errors. What I listed were the ones that were just the most infuriating to me. You pointed out in your review something I cut just for brevity's sake: did anyone fact check this shit? St. Martin's is a huge publishing house--you'd think they'd have someone go over this to double check some old punk's hazy memory. They probably just didn't care.

The scary thing about this book is that its being promoted as an academic book to be sold to media studies kids. I hope no one reads this as the gospel truth of punk.

skitzo (October 10, 2008)

this book IS truly terrible. when he does bother to mention someone besides brody, he takes plenty of time to talk shit about rancid - though didn't seem to mind putting them front and center on the cover. wonder why?

mattramone (October 10, 2008)

"All the suicide girls do in this book is try to justify their ridiculous platform."

Do they talk at all about how they're on the forefront of feminism while working for right wing assholes?

Hey_ska (October 10, 2008)

This is one of the few books that I actually sold to a used bookstore after I read it. It's just pure crap, WAAAAY too much Distillers and Suicide Girls.

All the suicide girls do in this book is try to justify their ridiculous platform.

Jihadah (October 10, 2008)

I agree for the most part, this book would have been alot better if every fifth word wasnt "Brody Dalle". But if you ignore that, like i did, the book has some decent interviews.

mattramone (October 10, 2008)

Score is for the Distillers.

TrueBeliever (October 10, 2008)

I bought this book because I wrote a paper on the story of the Bouncing Souls for my music class, and I used the book to pull quotes from them and to use as a reference. But after I got the quotes from it and actually tried to read it through, I found myself to be extremely annoyed by it and couldn't read after 50 pages. Horrible book.

eazyd2 (October 10, 2008)

needs more cowbell.

baseball (October 10, 2008)

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why anyone would feel compelled to write or read about the Distillers.

pricey123 (October 10, 2008)

wasnt this originally called Distil This? that would explain the focus on brody too

yuppiepunk (October 10, 2008)

I hated this book too.... and I'm pleased you called it out for being as riddled with errors as it is. I called that out too in my review.

And awesomely enough, the mistakes you call out were different from the ones I called out. Regardless, not a very good book, and still leaves the door open for someone to write a proper history of punk's modern era.

xote (October 10, 2008)

Wow, this sounds fucking horrible.

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