Punk novelist/biographer Chris Walter should be considered a Canadian treasure. After I first sunk my fangs into his 2005 novel No Chance Bar and Grill, it was obvious to me that the man knew his way around a keyboard. What he lacked in finesse, he easily made up for with true grit and words that sprang straight from the gut. When he changed speed with his biography of unsung Winnipeg punk band Personality Crisis (Warm Beer and Wild Times), which he swiftly followed with the debauched biography of Dayglo Abortions (Argh Fuck Kill), he had me hooked. Walter has a talent for unearthing the real story, and pulls no punches.
His latest, What No Else Wanted to Say, tells the tale of SNFU, and it’s easily the glimmering literary jewel in his trio of Canadian punk biographies. It’s a juicy one indeed, with all interviewed participants offering up equal amounts of slag and praise. To his credit, Walters captures the band’s determination and iron-clad work ethic, along with its dysfunction and desperation. His Herculean research is exhaustive as he digs deep and is able to get the SNFU story straight despite the hazy memories of band members, roadies and promoters.
In the early ’80s, hardcore had no Internet, there were very few promoters and constant touring barely earned bands enough money to fill up the gas tank. Yet these were salad days for hardcore, with a scene largely made up of unique individuals who were inspired solely by their passion for the music, a galvanizing sense of community and the strong urge to upset the apple cart.
The story of SNFU being the bridesmaid and never the bride is a dark one, marked with mental illness, drug addiction and general tension, with some wounds still open wide to this day. If you were thinking of giving this a pass because you don’t have a penchant for hardcore, you would really be missing the point here. If you ever wondered what it’s really like to be in a band, you have to peel back the pages of this cocktail brimming with sweat, blood, piss and vinegar.
Chris Walter will read selections from his book at Crobar (1221 Crescent) on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 8 p.m., $5, with performances by Ab Irato, Hold a Grudge and Aids
Tuesday – After putting so much energy into the newly reconstituted Dinosaur Jr., it seemed like only a matter of time until Lou Barlow would eventually put some retread on the band closest to his heart: Sebadoh. After a 13-year hiatus, Sebadoh have hit the road once again and are pulling into Sala tonight with Circle of Buzzards (featuring members of Sebadoh and Fiery Furnaces) and Barlow opening the night with a solo set. Truthfully, I always found Sebadoh’s records to be a bit patchy, but when they hit with hidden gems like “Brand New Love,” they hit hard.
Thursday – The newly revamped and fleshed-out version of the Pink Noise (see yesterday’s Cult MTL feature story) will be at Divan Orange with Jef Barbara, Mac DeMarco and Andy Boay. And it seems like the rash of punk rock reunions is hardly clearing up: ’90s punks Down by Law team up with the Atom Age at Katacombes.
Friday – Indefinite hiatuses are definitely getting hung up this week when the kings of doom and gloom, Dead Can Dance, shake off the cobwebs and bum out the entire Bell Centre. Warning: those riding unicycles or sporting oversized sponge “Number One” hands, cat-themed sweaters, leather Nascar caps or yellow jumpsuits with rainbow suspenders will not be admitted.
Saturday – Fans of noisy twang and delicious dementia are not going to want to miss local potty-mouthed miscreants Sacral Nerves with the Hazelles and Miss Lady Swamp Pussy at Barfly. My grizzly mug will be darkening the door of Katacombes to welcome back doomsayers Cauchemar after their worldwide tour. Cauchemar’s cross-pollination of doom and NWOBHM on their debut EP, La Vierge Noire, is as good as it gets (think Sabbath meets Saint Vitus). Adding further ballast to the bill is Occultation, Demontage, Metalian and Borrowed Time.
Monday – Those who like a little death metal mixed in with their hardcore will want to make tracks down to Katacombes when California’s Xibalba destroy with Alpha and Omega, Powertrip and Enforcers. ■
Current obsession: Myself on the radio!