Thursday, July 23, 2020

Austin powers

It's often said that politically conservative historical periods or environments are conducive to the creation of great art and a vibrant counterculture. There's some truth to it: after all, if there aren't any pricks, who or what are you going to kick against? But that does also downplay how draining and potentially dangerous it can be to be an outsider artist - just listen to Viv Albertine of The Slits talk to Loud And Quiet's Stuart Stubbs about the challenges of being a self-styled punk in late-1970s London.

Imagine, then, being the gay frontman of a hardcore punk band not in New York or LA but in 1980s Texas, a state whose "local conditions" - according to photographer Pat Blashill - included "racist cops, the KKK, Reagan America conservatism, and the born-again Christian wackos". Hats off to the Dicks' Gary Floyd and the Big Boys' Randy "Biscuit" Turner for having the guts to do what they did.

The Dicks and the Big Boys both feature in Blashill's new book Texas Is The Reason: The Mavericks Of Lone Star Punk. The most maverick of the lot, of course, were Butthole Surfers - no doubt it's them that Blashill particularly had in mind when talking about the "wild and unhinged" music to which the time and place gave birth. Michael Azerrad's exceptional Our Band Could Be Your Life is worth buying for the chapter on them alone.

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