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Spray Paint the Walls: The Story of Black Flag PM Press Original edition Stevie Chick

31st August 2012 History Books 27 Comments

Black Flag were the pioneers of American Hardcore, and this is their blood-spattered story. Formed in Hermosa Beach, California, in 1978, they made and played brilliant, ugly, no-holds-barred music for eight brutal years on a self-appointed touring circuit of Americas clubs, squats, and community halls. They fought with everybodythe police, the record industry, and even their own fansand they toured overseas on pennies a day in beat-up trucks and vans. This history tells Black Flags story from the inside, drawing on exclusive interviews with the groups members, their contemporaries, and the bands they inspired. It depicts the rise of Henry Rollins, the iconic front man, and Greg Ginn, who turned his electronics company into one of the worlds most influential independent record labels while leading Black Flag from punks three-chord frenzy into heavy metal and free jazz.

“Here is an exhaustive prequel to, followed by a more balanced re-telling of, Rollin’s Get in the Van journal, chronicling [Black] Flag’s emergence in suburban Hermosa Beach, . . . and how their ultra-harsh, hi-speed riffage sparked moshpit violence. . . . A gory, gobsmacking read.” Andrew Perry, MOJO

“Chick’s analytical and in-depth biography of the progenitors of SoCal Hardcore builds up to a page-turning, scene-setting climax. . . .Chick does a fine job of detailing the importance, influence and dedicated touring ethic of the band.” Alex Burrows, Classic Rock

“Stevie Chick chronicles Black Flag from both ends, mapping how they careened from menacing, berserk, and beachcore outsiders to grizzly hardcore icons to bizarre, and sometimes boring, post-hardcore pioneers that chewed through miles, tours, members, and songs.”

“Chick’s well-researched and readable book immerses the reader in Black Flag’s world, recreating the violent yet creative atmosphere of the early Hardcore scene through new interviews with the band and their peers.” Mat Croft, Record Collector

Stevie Chick has written for the Guardian, Melody Maker, and MOJO, and is the author of Ninja Tune and Psychic Confusion.

“Here is an exhaustive prequel to, followed by a more balanced re-telling of, Rollin’s Get in the Van journal, chronicling [Black] Flag’s emergence in suburban Hermosa Beach, . . . and how their ultra-harsh, hi-speed riffage sparked moshpit violence. . . . A gory, gobsmacking read.” Andrew Perry, MOJO

“Chick’s analytical and in-depth biography of the progenitors of SoCal Hardcore builds up to a page-turning, scene-setting climax. . . .Chick does a fine job of detailing the importance, influence and dedicated touring ethic of the band.” Alex Burrows, Classic Rock

“Stevie Chick chronicles Black Flag from both ends, mapping how they careened from menacing, berserk, and beachcore outsiders to grizzly hardcore icons to bizarre, and sometimes boring, post-hardcore pioneers that chewed through miles, tours, members, and songs.”

“Chick’s well-researched and readable book immerses the reader in Black Flag’s world, recreating the violent yet creative atmosphere of the early Hardcore scene through new interviews with the band and their peers.” Mat Croft, Record Collector

Spray Paint the Walls: The Story of Black Flag

  • 27 responses to "Spray Paint the Walls: The Story of Black Flag PM Press Original edition Stevie Chick"

  • ineraorys
    5:13 on August 31st, 2012
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    Thee most important band for a generation of angry suburban kids, I LOVE Black Flag. First Four Years changed my life. But the description says since “1878..”

  • Ava Bruster
    6:45 on August 31st, 2012
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    After creating many excellent songs and albums while a member of Husker Du, Sugar, and as a solo artist, Bob Mould comes through with another winner in his 2011 autobiography, “See a Little Light: The Trail or Rage and Melody”, co-written with Michael Azerrad (author of the widely praised “Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991″). Bob recounts his own history, both personal and professional, in a mostly chronological, easy-to-read manner. On the personal (non-music) side, Bob explains his struggles with growing up as a gay person in a dysfunctional family in a small, rural town, his three primary, long-term romantic relationships, his quitting cold turkey both drinking and cigarettes about a decade apart, his body image issues, his 7 month foray as a creative consultant with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1999-2000, and his coming of age and full self-acceptance as gay man that gradually increased in the late 1990s and fully bloomed in the mid-2000s. On the musical side, Bob discusses his early interest in music from 45 RPM singles he received as a young child, moving to the Twin Cities for college and (fairly quickly) forming Husker Du with like-minded musicians Grant Hart and Greg Norton, the musical evolution Husker Du went through from their formation in 1979 to their dissolution in January 1988 (with the band’s break-up, at least from Bob Mould’s point of view, chronicled in a story I had not read or heard about before), the varying personal circumstances between the creation of the two albums released in his first part of his solo career, the mostly positive highs, especially early on, of his time playing in Sugar with David Barbe and Malcolm Travis, and the various aspects of the second part of his solo career, ranging from his go-it-alone approach to his late 1990s albums (the eponymous Hubcap album and “The Last Dog and Pony Show”) to his boredom with alternative rock and interest in electronica to ultimately finding a balance between loud guitar rock, singer-songwriter material, and electronic music in his mid-to-late 2000s albums, starting with 2005′s “Body of Song”. At least to this reader, Bob was able to find a good balance between talking about Bob Mould the musician and Bob Mould the human being, and perhaps the most striking thing about the book is how much Bob has grown as a person and gained self-acceptance, happiness, and comfort with who he is during his life, especially since about 2004. “See a Little Light” is an engrossing read, and I was able to read the entire book within a 24 hour period between the time it came in the mail until the time I finished it.

    One final thought: in this reviewer’s opinion, this book is a better and much easier to read book than Andrew Earles’ Husker Du biography that was published in late 2010. Not only does this book cover a broader scope in the musical (not to mention personal) life of one Husker Du’s members, rather than (mostly) covering just the 1979-1987 Husker Du period, and not only is it written from a first-person point of view rather than a third-person point of view, but it is also edited much better, avoiding the frequent repeating of stories and information that plagued Mr. Earles’ book.

    If you have any interest in Bob Mould as a musician, or even in Bob Mould as a “non-stereotypical” gay man (with this reviewer speaking as a heterosexual male), this book is well worth picking up.

  • jediker
    7:59 on August 31st, 2012
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    I’ve read as much as I can find about Black Flag via interviews and articles found on the web, but this book has so much info that at times it reads like a text book. One minute you’ll be reading about Black Flag gearing up for a show at a certain club, then the story will derail into giving you more info than you wanted about the club where they’re playing.

    There are so many different topics in this book that if you’re looking for Black Flag information and only Black Flag information, you might get bored here, so bored that you may put the book down and never pick it up again. I honestly didn’t start flying through the pages until Dez joined, the book staying interesting with Henry at the mic as well.

    The book often paints Ginn in a negative light, and I would have never thought there was so much anger/animosity among the band members. It’s kind of a bummer when reading this stuff, to think that my favorite band of all time basically hated each other, it kind of makes the music seem like a lie.

    Overall this is a really great book, even if the writing is sometimes forced or full of filler. If you don’t know much about Black Flag and you’d like to learn a lot, buy this book.

    P.S. To the sellers who are pricing this book around $30 to $70, shame on you. It’s collector/sellers like you that ruin music, books, art, ect. making it unavailable to those with less money.

  • Jeff Parr
    13:48 on August 31st, 2012
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    Oddly, I sort of agree with most of what y’all are writing in these reviews (be it a 5* or 2* review). I don’t really know how to score the book, but I do know I didn’t put it down until I was done. I do recommend it for any major Husker Du/Sugar/Bob Mould fan.

    Chances are Husker Du/Sugar/Bob Mould has been a big part of your musical life off and on over the years. For me, it started as a 22 year old, when I discovered Zen Arcade in 1985 and then quickly was blown away by New Day Rising a few months later. Over the years I grew to love and understand those albums (and many of the other HD/Sugar/Mould albums) even more. I’ll still discover some track on Flip Your Wig or Warehouse and be like, “damn, I didn’t realize that “Lip In the Air” is so awesome! And that’s what makes Husker Du/Bob’s career so interesting; the musical depth, and the way the music continually unfolds and reveals itself to you.

    I loved the recent book, “Husker Du: The Story of the Noise Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock”, so I was thrilled to have a chance to read more about Bob’s life.

    Now,what I’m about to write isn’t so much criticism, but to help shape a fan’s expectations before they embark on what largely is a great read for a big Bob Mould fan.

    Ok, lets start with how I wasn’t particularly looking forward to reading about the gay culture and WWF, not because I’m homophobic but because that’s when the music seemed to go downhill, thus would the whole story become less interesting? The story did get a little less interesting, but its still part of the story. Moreover, his last couple albums are his best albums in years, so the path to his recent deliverance is very interesting. Also, I now know more about gay culture than I ever did! I’d definately be a Bear if I was gay!

    There are many unsatisfying moments. Why so easily break up Sugar? I wanted to understand better why Sugar just didn’t go on hiatus? He seems to still like those guys, why not put a Sugar album every few years and do the solo and DJ stuff. But – this is really important – what we want as fans isn’t the real story.

    Then of course, there’s the Husker Du stuff. As Husker Du fans the true story is unsatisfying. But its not like he can rewrite it. Still, you’re left thinking why break up a band he’d worked so hard to build? Why not take more responsibility for his role in the break up? Then there’s the short shrift he gives to Grant and Greg. I wanted to hear about the thrill of being in Husker Du, and how amazing he thought it was to have another songwriter in the band who was clearly his equal. I mean what are the chances? Although Bob spends time talking about some of the songs and albums, it doesn’t feel like enough. Nor enough discussion about why the music resonated with the fans, and no discussion about how the creative and competitive dynamic between him and Grant fueled the greatness of Husker Du.

    You never get a paragraph like “It became to clear to me around the time of “Metal Circus”, that Grant Hart was my equal as a songwriter, and if I was going to keep up and stay a step ahead, I was going to have reach deep down and push myself as an artist. I like to believe I did the same for Grant. Grant had that special gift for melody that was truly special. Still, at the end of the day, it was the blend of his songs with mine, his voice and my voice, and the over all synergy we’d created that made Husker Du special! 1+1 sometimes does = 3!”

    BUT, here’s the thing. Its Bob’s life and its his book. Its his life and his perception of his life that I wanted to read about, and am glad I did. It may not completely sync up with what I hoped to read, but it definitely enlightened me to his view of himself and his music. Including “my perception” that he still is in some sort of self denial with regard to the importance of Grant Hart in his life.

    We may want him and Grant to get along and respect each other, but the reality is, they don’t!
    Oddly, when Bob writes about his reasons for this, I was surprisingly – considering its his book and we’re only hearing his side — left feeling like “is that all Bob?” Near the end of the book he writes how he’s unnecessarily destroyed and broken too many friendships. He’s become more wise, and frankly seems like a pretty decent chap! But he doesn’t mention Grant in all this.

    The story would have ended much better with his realization that Grant Hart will be forever connected to his musical legacy and life. To have come to terms with that, to let bygones be bygones, and a good old “bear hug” for Grant and Greg, would have been a much more satisfying ending. And not just for the fans, but I think for Bob too.

    While reading the book I listened to all the albums and truly enjoyed my weekend with Bob. After reading the book, you’ll definitely feel a little different about him, know him a LOT better than you ever did before, maybe not like him as much as you’d hoped you would, but possibly appreciate the music even more. And at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important.

    If you’re reading this Bob! Thanks for all the great songs!

  • Justin K
    16:26 on August 31st, 2012
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    Bob Mould was the singer and guitarist in the pioneering band Husker Du. His memoirs recount his journey from his childhood and well beyond that band. Had he simply been a member of that incredible american punk band his place would already be assured in history; but, he was also a member of the band Sugar and also did produce some great solo records. Of course it is the story regarding Husker du that stands out the most. We can see how he and the band progress until the final split. While some reviewers have found him bitter, this is not really my impression. he simply at times did not observe the evolution of the people around him. But Bob Mould comes across as a very intelligent and outspoken artist who does not over or under-rate his contribution to rock. It is well written as well.

  • Eldon Weig
    17:32 on August 31st, 2012
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    Of course any Husker fan is going to enjoy this book. It has a hermetically sealed lid on keeping the reader’s interest. Now having said that, aside from the story being quite enthralling, I guess my only criticism of the book would be in the style of writing–it seemed to be fairly bland. I would have expected more color and use of the English language, not only from Mould, but especially from Azzerad–as he’s one of the best in the business. My suspicion is that Mould did most of the writing and okay’d all the editing (just a guess, but based on the story told by the author it wouldn’t surprise me in the least).

    Either way, this is but a minor point. Mould is so honest it’s hard to find fault with him about anything he did in his life–and I sure don’t. Anyone who has ever been in a band with the same peeps for over 3 years can certainly relate to how hard it can be to get along and make it work.

    I’d like to hear from Grant and Greg now. When it comes to Husker Du history, ‘The more the merrier.’ Not nearly enough people know this incredible story. These guys were warriors, and they made it to the top.

    For people that are not Husker Du fans, this book still would hold water, I’d submit. Family life (especially dysfunctional family life), pursuits of success, love, sexuality, the fact that it’s a real account, etc, makes this book universally of interest on many levels.

    It’s a good book.

  • Marco Arment
    17:47 on August 31st, 2012
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    I’m a long-time fan of Bob Mould, and I would rank him as my favorite guitarist. Yes, even above all the classic rock greats and his contemporaries like J Mascis and Kevin Shields. Since Bob is a notoriously private guy, an intimate look at his life has been a long time coming. And after the disaster that was the Earles Husker Du biography, we fans really needed some perspective and some truth about the man’s life.

    Bob’s music is sometimes painfully personal, tackling the big emotional topics that we would rather not deal with. It’s taken Bob this long to write his autobiography because the thin metaphorical veil of music is as close as he has wanted to get to talking about himself in the past. As of about three years ago, he was ready to start writing this book, and you can tell why it took him a while to get up the nerve to do so. He lays everything out here, plain and bare. Some things make him look good, other things make him look like a total ass, and yes, as other reviewers attest, he does come across as arrogant and dismissive sometimes. Some have said they like Bob less after reading this book. I still love him, because nobody’s perfect, but more importantly, hardly anybody’s honest, and Bob is really, really honest here. I give him props for that. If most of us were to tell the truth about our lives, we’d look bad sometimes, too. In piecing together what I could about Bob the man, and Bob’s life, over the years, everything that is written here seems to jibe with what I expected.

    Not that there aren’t some shocking revelations here and there. I don’t want to give anything away, but this is real warts-and-all biography, people!

    I think any of Bob’s fans will finally be happy to get Bob’s honest tales of the Husker Du days, and particularly his relationships with Greg and Grant, and the breakup. There have been a lot of rumors over the years, and the Earles book didn’t do much to separate fact from fiction. I admire Grant Hart’s music as much as I do Bob’s, so I never really want to take sides in the matter, and it was never quite clear who did what, and what went down. Now I feel I have the real story about the rise and fall of one of my all-time favorite bands, and I can put it to rest now. I also don’t want to see a Husker reunion now; Bob has convinced me that would be a bad idea.

    Others have mentioned that all the talk of the gay lifestyle is a little off-putting to the hetero readers. As one of said hetero readers, I can say that, yes, some of his talk of “bear/cub” exploits and picking up gay escorts out of the free alternative weekly’s classifieds is more than I wanted to know. But I also didn’t really dig the parts about Bob’s career in the pro wrestling industry, either. I read all these sections with as much enthusiasm as the rest, because that was the only way to get a complete portrait of Bob.

    If you are a fan like me, you need to get this book as soon as possible. It’s really the book we’ve all been waiting for. Your long fanship of Bob Mould will be rewarded.

  • Leroy Jenkins
    20:56 on August 31st, 2012
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    I’ve been a huge fan of Bob Mould’s music going all the way back to his days in Husker Du. This book is a lot of what you would expect: his personal time line and history, life on the road, the triumphs and tribulations of the music business, the juggling of egos & communication problems, moments with other people in the public eye (many fascinating or hilarious!). It’s also a lot of what you won’t expect: his growth and maturity as a person, his humbling authenticity, his sharing of events from his perspective without bashing and drama for the others involved (and a lot of compassion for them too), his eventual self-acceptance and self love and all the personal expansion that comes with that. Once I started, I could barely put it down.

  • PageLin
    23:01 on August 31st, 2012
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    I’ll just echo whats been said above. Fascinating man, fascinating life. Anyone who cannot find a bit of themselves in this book is not human at all.

    There were parts where I found myself flinching because some of the words seemed so close to my experiences, as wounds I suffered or inflicted, parts where I was taken into another world so foreign and not my own, and parts where I found myself laughing out loud at some of the things Mr. Mould has seen or done.

    And yes, as a long time fan, I could care less whether Mould was gay or straight, knowing who he is (and now why) only made the words and music seem that much more universal.

    It is, as another reviewer put it, a trail worth taking.

  • Ranee Good
    3:37 on September 1st, 2012
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    An excellent autobiography. Perhaps the best thing Azerrad has done to date. Bob Mould is cool, and even if you’re new to his music, I’m 99% sure you will agree after reading his long-awaited book. I admit to skipping some sentences during the chapter about his job as pro wrestling consultant (not a fan). But I was hanging on literally every other word.

  • Save Me
    7:35 on September 1st, 2012
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    As Mould admits in his preface, many of his memories have faded, due to the blur of chemicals and the passage of time. Given the depth of many of his recollections, if he wasn’t in an altered state during his band’s heyday, this book might have reached epic proportions.

    He crafts a reflective retrospective about his half-century of growing up, not in public–with concerts that began in the hardcore era with twenty songs in forty minutes at overwhelming intensity–so much as off-stage. As he matures, his insights deepen and he reveals his inner self gradually.

    Mould demonstrates his determination as major labels courted and wooed him and the band to call the shots, to start and stop when he demanded. His work ethic and attention to minutiae characterize his music and his control of the band or, solo, his musicians and crew. He named his first solo record Workbook, after all. The subtitle of this thoughtful autobiography, co-written with Michael Azerrad, reveals how “the trail of rage” that marked his first twenty-odd years has intersected, more and more in Mould’s life and times, with “melody”. He opens his story by musing how musically he possesses perfect pitch; he wonders why he can be so out of tune personally with those around him.

    Full of testosterone, on speed, drinking daily since he was twelve, awkward, looking like “a gas station attendant”, Mould did not fit the image of a punk rocker or a young gay man. His discomfort did not lie in his shame about his sexuality, but in his inability to find relief outside of destruction. His nihilism haunts him, and his relationships must contend with his ego, his talent, and his self-lacerating drive to overcome his own misgivings and doubts.

    While Mould does not delve as deeply as I wanted into sharing his perspective on why the mid-80s albums with Hart & Norton endure, he does offer a necessary balance to Andrew Earles’ 2010 “story about the noise-pop pioneers who launched modern rock” (see my review). Earles chronicles the band’s evolution, but he lacked access to Mould’s testimony, which he apparently saved for his own account; Mould’s astute choice of Azerrad (whose chapter on Hüsker Dü in his Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Underground 1981-1991 (see my review a few years ago) remains essential reading) helps Mould elucidate what made his best songs, and those of Hart, work so well.

    Mould stays very fair to his bandmates when they merit his praise; he credits many friends and colleagues. He also criticizes those who stood in his formidable way, whether bandmates, rivals, industry representatives, or accountants.

    Furthermore, he evenly explains his rocky relationships with his first two longtime partners, and he accepts his share of the blame for what went wrong. Yet, he also incorporates occasions when others took advantage of his trust, financially or intimately. This deepens the texture of his engagingly told story. He finds it difficult to say goodbye, and he tends for much of his fifty years to walk away from conflict even if he has helped escalate it.

    He appears as outwardly confident, yet he harbors doubt. This may stem from his start. “As a gay kid, the dialogue of courtship was tightly yet invisibly twined around the sexual camaraderie that young boys need.” He feared intimacy. He shunned tenderness. New Day Rising by its title and lighter atmosphere may signal his recognition that “bookish musical aficionados” like myself listened to his music (and saw his first band in concert ’84 & ’85) as much as the hardcore crowd dominating the mosh pits nearest the stage.

    For his solo career and with Sugar, he balances the personal and the promotional nimbly, but for stretches over four-hundred dutifully told pages, this account feels as if expanded from decades of Day Runner notes. He appears to list everyone he met and every place he flew to and stayed, and while those included here may cringe or grin at their shout-outs, fans may wonder as I did why this near-total recall remains so necessary.

    Nonetheless, this offers a more in-depth look at Mould than a music-based survey such as Earles was limited in providing. Mould’s enthusiasm for his debut solo LP and Sugar’s best work (even if the spectacular song “Gee Angel” escapes mention) captures his romance with playing and producing catchy, punchy songs. He addresses relationships in often a non-gendered form of address, so everyone feels included in his audience.

    Still, his demons haunted him, for his new lover proved as straying as his first. His second Sugar record failed to live up to his first, just as his second solo LP had. “Maybe someone can adopt this book for Broadway: CATHARSIS! starring Bob Mould. The hit play with no ending.”

    He evades responsibility for leading his second power trio; he had walked away from his first. Lessons do not stick with him without repetition and a slow awareness of his shortcomings. He learns to seek happiness. As he says of his lyrics, used to work his way through tension and torment, so with his WCW doomed pro-wrestling narratives: “Write it and it shall be so.”

    He continues his stubborn direction ahead, no matter what crowds expect. This expansive story ends as a gentle but firm lesson in starting over, even if it takes a half a century. Finally, Mould can enjoy life. Thirty years making music, he pays as much attention now to his health as his career. He works out, produces, d.j.`s, performs. He lives a happy life. So, don’t expect a Hüsker Dü reunion.

  • Miss_X
    9:06 on September 1st, 2012
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    This book is predominantly a batch of information derived from a few books that have come before it; Henry Rollins’ GET IN THE VAN, James Parker’s TURNED ON, WE OWE YOU NOTHING (from the punk planet interviews), and THIS BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE by Michael Azerrad. I’ve read all of those books and was excited to read something historical about Black Flag. Unfortunately there wasn’t much I didn’t know already (from reading the aforementioned books and seeing the band). There were new interviews that almost filled in some holes in the band’s history and bits of trivia, but there were also those passages that biographers that don’t know a lot firsthand about their subject inject, like “Hermosa Beach, California in the late 70′s was all surf and sun, Jimmy Carter was president, and Fleetwood Mac was dominating the airwaves, blah blah blah….” (not an actual quote from the book.) Sometimes that gives the reader a sense of time or context, and at other times it seems to be a method of filling up a book. One important point the author does make is the importance of Chuck Dukowski in the band versus who anyone’s favorite singer was. I would recommend the books that were mentioned earlier and probably Joe Carducci’s ROCK AND THE POP NARCOTIC before reading this.

  • Huntley
    11:37 on September 1st, 2012
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    I came to Mould’s work later in his professional life; in fact, until 18 months ago I hadn’t heard anything he had ever done. A “you might also like” serial click session on a downloadable music service site (that started with a purchase from The Smiths,) eventually landed me at Bob Mould’s Workbook. It had been over 20 years since I had fallen this hard for a music collection. Just like a teenager, I listened to four of his albums everyday for months and then ventured out late last year (on a work night no less!) to see him perform live. His show at Iron Horse in Northampton, MA was energetic, generous, and mature. In between some songs, his interaction with the audience got me interested in his life. I wondered how a man who started his musical career in Husker Du got to the point of telling a small New England crowd a charming little story about a neighborhood co-op grappling with how to politely and inclusively handle nudists at a farmer’s market.

    As one reviewer already points out, Mould does a good job balancing discussing the evolution of his musical career with sharing personal recollections. As I’m not a Husker Du acolyte (in fact, my 80s underground rock-loving husband had to inform me that Bob Mould was not my own personal discovery,)the discussion of those paricular songs and albums does not have intimate meaning for me. And while some fans may feel deflated when they read The Real Reason Why Husker Du Will Never Get Back Together, it fits perfectly into the narrative and is consistent with the kind of person Mould presents himself to be. No matter what phase of his musical career or personal life he shares about, emotions come through well. His admissions about being a jerk during many important moments in his life read like those of a man who boxed up a lot of unpleasant experiences and has now finally opened them up to find out which parts belong to him. Mould’s honesty about his own failings and shortcomings feels authentic even though his muted language at times may cause some to question whether or not he takes full ownership of all his parts. The other major thread, his coming out odyssey and how it relates to the safer emotional spaces he now tries to live in, reads beautifully. Instead of falling into some trite, kumbaya-I-found-myself-hallelujah verse, he freely shares gritty, funny, embarrassing, joyful, heartbreaking, and scandalous moments from a 20+ year process. It does indeed get better.

    Mould’s memoir reads easily and well. Although I am now a fan and that was my hook into this book, others may well find something to take from it. The production side of the music industry as well as (surprise!) professional wrestling receive detailed treatment. Integrating sobriety into a career not tailored for such a lifestyle is touched upon several times in addition to surviving the irretrievable breakdown of a number of different kinds of relationships, both personal and professional. Woven throughout the book, too, is the theme of working hard at one’s job: getting up everyday and reporting for duty, pounding the pavement and repeatedly knocking on doors, and showing up ready to deliver one’s best. Being a rock star is a uniquely awesome job and he doesn’t shy away from the coolness of it, but Mould makes it clear that it’s still work. If the music didn’t require such effort and he didn’t get paid for it, he’d call it a hobby and none of it would matter to the likes of me. As it clearly is work to Mould, and he takes his work seriously, fans like me benefit. I highly recommend See a Little Light both for its ability to convey richer meaning to Mould’s musical body of work and because the overarching theme of the struggle to mature into a whole person should resonate with all of us who take that trail.

  • Canadian
    13:26 on September 1st, 2012
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    I was a huge Du fan in the 80′s and I really like the solo material from both Bob and Grant. Like most reviewers here, Bob’s choice of sexual orientation was never given a second thought. The music is what I love. After reading this book I actually know a lot LESS about the band than I did before. This may sound strange, but the the completely self-absorbed writing style creates more questions than it answers.

    Good information is presented on the Husker Du early years, Bob Solo, Sugar, and the following years up to now. Most songs are given some mention and some of are described in detail. The various contracts, dealings and general insight into punk / alternative recording contracts in the 80′s is also given a nice “run about”. It seems that in Bob’s perspective that he basically ran the band and their tours and is the sole reason they made any money. This might be true, but it is his perspective and his own retrospective, so if that’s what he believes, then maybe it is correct.

    Maybe it is the ghost writer’s interpretation, but Bob comes off as kind of an ass in some places (especially the beginning). I had heard he was a little on the “difficult” side, but his almost complete “wave of the hand” at the talents of his former band-mates is really difficult to read. Anyway, like a good Husker Du record, there are things to like, things to love and things to hate about this book. There is enough good stuff to make it an interesting read, but you may have the same reaction as I and some of the other reviewers had at some of the material. Fans should pick this up to get some insight, but until a real 3-person history of Husker Du is published, some of your questions will go unanswered.

  • Gene's brigade
    16:16 on September 1st, 2012
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    I bought this on Kindle. As a musician, counselor, and Husker Du/Sugar/Bob Mould fan I found this book to be quite fascinating. Bob bears his soul about many issues in his personal life, gives insightful history on his musical endeavors, and even shares his mentoring insights from a musician who has been there (one of my favorites; 1) If you make a promise, follow through 2) Know your own worth 3) Always be on time). A real “page-turner, and I found many parallels to my own life! I think Bob would be a fascinating person to hang and talk with, this is the next best thing! Overall excellent book!

  • tryagain
    16:57 on September 1st, 2012
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    I love Black Flag as much as the next guy, but pretty much lost interest after the TV Party record. I thought they became really self indulgent. This book chronicles their whole career not just the Rollins era. I found it pretty interesting how all the characters knew each other and came to know each other. I wish there wasn’t so much attention paid to extraneous people and bands, but I assume it will be helpful to people with well rounded lives who didn’t pay such close attention. There were a few little inaccuracies (like referring to the Misfits as a California band) that make me question a couple other things, but overall seems very well researched and it made me feel more punk by knowing stuff the author didn’t. I thought it went too easy on Greg Ginn who, essentially tried to make Black Flag his back up band by the end of their run. It’s probably fair though and Like I said most people reading this had fuller lives than I did.

  • Cazieness
    17:26 on September 1st, 2012
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    I heard about this Book & thought: “Great! Some Tiny little Book about Black Flag…”
    BUT This is One Well Researched, Interesting, & like their Music, EXCITING Biography, of these Icons of Hardcore.
    They Were One of my Absolutely Favorite Bands ever since Everything Went Black. so I Eagerly Dove in! I was actually Surprised how Well it was Written, & how Great it was to Read.
    All About Everyone in Black Flag & SST as well! How They Lived, Rehearsed, Toured, Survived, Back when Hardcore was actually Going on. These were real Pioneers. I was Lucky Enough to see them Once on the Loose Nut Tour & I’ll Never Forget it!
    The Story does end on some Bummer Notes, But The Truth can’t always be as Sunny as Sunny Southern California!
    Spray paint those Walls!

  • asshat
    17:43 on September 1st, 2012
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    Upon finishing Bob Mould’s autobiography, I did not feel that I got much of a glimpse into the creative process of one of the most prolific indie rockers of the last thirty years as I was witness to a process of self-discovery.

    Too often, cultural icons — be they guitar heroes, politicians or television personalities — become larger than life; but with “See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody,” the reader will be pleasantly surprised to find a remarkably human man behind the music.

    While the writing is sometimes uneven, the tone is brutally honest and quite refreshing for an autobiography. Bob pulls no punches and makes few, if any apologies. At times, he comes across as arrogant, but like much of his body of work, there’s a vulnerability to his words. Whether he’s fondly remembering the DIY spirit of the hardcore movement of the early eighties (with tales of adventure with the likes of Henry Rollins, Michael Stipe and Jello Biafra), chronicling the rise and fall of the Hüsker Dü, capturing the chemistry of Sugar and the landmark album Copper Blue, or exploring new sounds as he literally and figuratively becomes more comfortable in his own skin, Mould’s autobiography is, at its core, a late bloomer’s “coming of age” tale. And what makes it so engaging is that one gets the sense Mould became more aware through the process of writing itself. Indeed, it is not until the final chapters of the book that Mould is at his most comfortable and self-revelatory.

    Those looking for sex, drugs and rock and roll will find no shortage of salacious details. But Mould’s sexuality, drug / alcohol use / abuse, and especially his critical contributions to the evolution of rock and roll over three decades (Dave Grohl has often cited Mould’s work as a huge influence on Nirvana) are ultimately inversions, and in many ways, subversions, of the clichéd rocker memoir. What emerges is a portrait of a gifted man who has lived with conflict, self-denial and suppressed emotion for much of his life. And it’s this rage that ultimately gives way to the melody and, to extend the metaphor, harmony of coming to terms with one’s true self, warts and all, later in life.

    Those of us who were once, like Mould, angry young men, will come away from the book with a better perspective on how much we all have grown. Or should grow.

    Bravo, Bob (and a tip of the hat to Michael Azerrad, too)!

  • Wally Walkley
    21:05 on September 1st, 2012
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    Bob Mould, with his co-writer, has created a great story which is very readable and sometimes hard to put down! It goes much beyond the rise of a pop star, with the stress of performances and the ever present drug culture, into the revelation of his creativity, development of various styles of music, conflict with his family (which he resolves), fight with alcoholism, self-education as a businessman (with inevitable successes and mistakes), and gradual growth and entry into the gay community. This is a book much to be recommended, whether you are gay or straight, into alternative rock music or classical, young or old, or just an avid reader interested in an amazing and inspiring life.

  • Hugh Blankly
    22:38 on September 1st, 2012
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    Love the band – loved the book. Well written , informative. I couldn’t put it down. Lots of interviews with people who were there….especially good contributions from Keith Morris , Ron Reyes and especially Kira – her section is a great inside look at Black flag on tour

  • Consumatopia
    0:46 on September 2nd, 2012
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    This is a VERY thorough retelling of Mould’s life, and after reading several chapters at a time, I had to take several breaks because there were just too many details that didn’t seem to add to the story of this man. With it being as long as it is, and excrutiatingly detailed to boot, I was simply overwhelmed with the mundane details of this concert or that tour. No ground was left uncovered.

    The parts that I found the most interesting were his describing events that would be the inspiration for several of his songs (most of which I hadn’t heard before, but discovered as a result of reading his descriptions), the process of his “coming into” being a self-actualized gay man in the bear community, the ebb and flow of his romantic relationships, getting back to his Catholic roots, forming his first gay social circle in DC, and discovering a passion for new musical styles.

    These were the parts of him that shaped who he would become, NOT heading to a sound check, firing a bad drummer, describing countless tours, or going to the doctor to drain the pus from a skin growth. At points like these, I wished that Mould would let his music do the talking, which is what he usually is very good at in my opinion.

  • Mike_mk
    5:14 on September 2nd, 2012
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    As a massive Husker Du fan, and secondly as a fan of his solo work, I was excited as soon as I heard Bob Mould was releasing a book. Thankfully it doesn’t disappoint.
    It is very detailed in detailing how Husker Du were formed, how they toured, how albums were written and consistenly provides context to give both a broad and nuanced view of the journey at the same time.
    It is no surprise that it is very personal, very honest and very open just like pretty much all of Bob’s work. His journey through homosexuality is actually quite captivating even if my interest in this book is purely musical. The daily trials and tribulations which the heterosexual community doesn’t see is very startling.

    The only negative for me personally is the one sided views (yes, I realise it’s from the perspective of one man) of both Grant Hart & Greg Norton – Bob Mould is not Husker Du; the sum is greater than it’s parts no matter how much I or anyone view Bob. Apart from a few specific examples, little appreciation is given for Grant’s contributions. Little or no credit is given to Greg Norton, which I find absolutely startling as a bass guitarist myself. No, he wasn’t writing many songs, but his attention to melody and bringing balance and direction to the sonic fireworks around him cannot be overstated.
    The chapter on his time with the WWE or WWF (whatever it is) was dead boring to this Australian who prefers real sport.

    But apart from those small negatives it is one hell of a book. And one which would have taken guts, confidence and courage to write.
    I would reccommend to any fan of Bob’s work, no matter which part of his journey they prefer.

  • JYang
    6:32 on September 2nd, 2012
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    I got a late start on Bob Mould relative to my age, likely not buying any Husker Du records until the late 80s, and, for the most part, I tolerated them but didn’t enjoy them. I really loved his solo albums after that, a little less so the Sugar, and then very much so the Last Dog and Pony Show, which I feel is underrated. I continue to buy the recent stuff and like a few of the songs, but I couldn’t tolerate Modulate at all.
    I will confess I deduced Mr. Mould’s sexual preference when he flipped the polaroid over in the video he tells about, and it did affect how I perceived him for a while. I got back on board as I gradually got comfortable with the reality of homosexuality; being a heterosexual and a Roman Catholic, it was a long, hard struggle to wrap my head around it, helped by having some great friends who are gay.
    I got this book because I’d heard so many odd things about Mr. Mould and I wanted to get it straight from his pen. The book is about what I expected: lots of stories about concerts and groups and influences, but it does contain touching recollections of his tough childhood in the remote town of Malone. The most interesting parts to me were the memories of making the albums I really liked, but those are all too fleeting. It was great to read about him quitting drinking, as it seemed to be a big ball and chain around him, and especially quitting smoking, though it seemed like he still liked marijuana and even dabbled in anabolic steroids. I will never understand why so many people, especially in the music business, feel the need to medicate themselves and be intoxicated most of the time. It is the opposite of cool and cutting edge to want to escape yourself and poison the only body you get. I enjoyed the section, brief for you non-believers, of his going back to Mass. It kills me the Church isn’t more accepting of gays, since there are so many in the priesthood and religious life, and for years it was the main escape of the homosexual to join a convent or become a monk or priest. I hope he will be welcome to take part in the sacraments once things progress. I am saddened, though, by his rejoicing at embracing the lifestyle of casual and anonymous sex after ending his second monogamous relationship, and he never once mentions the word “condom.” That and embracing the destructive and insidiously evil world of professional wrestling bring the judgment of someone with a purported IQ of 175 into serious question.
    I got through it all; I would recommend it to fans only. I wish him luck with the rest of his life.

  • kceldkzq
    11:18 on September 2nd, 2012
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    This book is filled with inaccuracies, as previously mentioned below. Some of which are too big to let slide. For example: the Misfits being a California band. The author is from England and obviously is not familiar with California, but, he makes a big deal about the difference between L.A. and O.C. and how the scenes were so different, the violence and so on. The author has no idea which bands are from OC and which are from LA.For instance he says Eddie and the Subtitles were from Manhattan Beach (LA), and Wasted Youth and Circle One were from OC with “deep connections to the local punk gangs.” This is in reference to them playing at The Cuckoo’s Nest.

    The Screws are referred to as The Skrews or The Skrewz. Chick also refers to HB as Huntingdon. This was weird because it was sometimes spelled correctly during interviews. Chick included a section about the Dogtown skaters and their influence on the Southern California punk scene. OK, but it was clearly ripped right out of a recent viewing of the Dogtown and the Legend of Z-Boys movie. The author then goes on to say Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Steve Alba are from Orange County. WTF? Oh, and if you want to mention something about SoCal skaters influence on SoCal punk at that time, at least mention Steve Olson.

    The author is completely unfamiliar with California, which got aggravating at times. But still, this is an interesting, and important book about an important band. Deducting stars for misinformation. The other most aggravating oddity in the book was when the author says something about hipsters who were too young to see BF back when they were starting like to say they prefer Keith, Ron, Dez over Henry because it is cool to say that. WTF? That is an opinion. Some of us are just old. We saw them with the earlier singers, therefore, we tend to prefer those singers. Or, perhaps a particular one. I never saw Black Flag with Henry, but now I am going to check out those later albums. The cover shot should have been of the only member who remained constant in the band from start to finish. Or better yet, Greg and Chuck.

    To end on a positive note, despite the criticisms, it was definitely a worthwhile read. I really liked when Chick said Henry could never sing Nervous Breakdown as well as Keith and Keith could not sing Damaged as well as Henry, or something like that.

  • sciwiz
    12:39 on September 2nd, 2012
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    My idea of “alternative rock” as a preteen and teenager was U2′s the “Joshua Tree” — a band and album I regarded back then as serious-minded and dull. (These days I’m a big fan of U2.) Looking back, it might have been cool to have fully experienced the heyday of the 1980s rock underground movement when bands like Bob Mould’s Husker Du, the Replacements, Soul Asylum, the Minutemen and many other acts barreled across the country in vans, armed with their equipment and high-minded ethos to rock the next grungy club. Though it was groovy witnessing the 1990s explosion of Seattle bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden as a college student, it seems like the gritty touring experiences, animalistic taking of speed, and Do It Yourself mentality that Mould describes in “See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody” are more street level and exciting than watching “Black Hole Sun” on MTV for the thousandth time in 1994.

    A large chunk of this book has its thrill-a-minute hooks, even when the narrator slows down the pace of his life and renews himself yet again. Mould is a hardworking, passionate, honest artist who also possesses a conventional, practical side that helps him and those around him get the most out of his artistry. While blazing through his formative early years, you can practically feel the drugs, alcohol, rage and musical direction melting off of Mould as he settles into an easier, more level-headed lifestyle and approach. Husker Du’s manic intensity is followed by uncertainty, some polished solo work, then the magical, all-too-brief music of Sugar, which is how I discovered Mould (right around the time all those Soundgarden videos were in steady rotation).

    After unearthing his true self and confidently moving forward, Mould’s story takes some intriguing, at times less enjoyable, detours (into the psycho world of pro wrestling, for instance). Toward the end, the numerous locale relocations and relationship troubles wear a bit thin and get somewhat self-possessed. Nonetheless, “See a Little Light” makes for a nice companion to the music Bob Mould has steadily released for decades.

  • hatasiz
    14:28 on September 2nd, 2012
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    Bob’s writing style is wonderful…this is a great read. Having known him since we were small (our mothers worked together at the phone company) and his Mom used to bring him over…then we went to school together and graduated together….I think he’s a little rough on our hometown. Malone IS a small town in Northern NY and wasn’t tolerant of a lot of things…but my sister and I…who are Bob’s contemporaries in age…simply don’t remember any gay young man who was brutally beaten and found dead in the woods locally while we were in school. Sorry Bob…guess it made good copy…likewise…and frankly…Malone helped make you who you are…so don’t sell it so short.

    Otherwise…I’m impressed….and awed. Fantastic. Bob is a genius…musically and so many other ways. I’m glad he has finally come into his own personally and professionally….

    I hope there is a next chapter and I look forward to reading it.

  • Drizzy
    16:56 on September 2nd, 2012
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    I was in the crowd at the 2009 Coachella festival, a story Mould tells at the beginning of the book. I knew little of how he got to that point, but the book did a great job of filling in the gaps. The story he tells felt intimate and genuine. I didn’t feel at a loss not knowing Mould’s back catalog, instead feeling that he wrote the book for everyone. Even if you don’t know who Bob Mould is, you can pick up “See a Little Light” and spend a 385 pages getting to know him with ease.

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