Reviews

Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Records, by Bob Suren (Microcosm Publishing, 2015)

Confession: I used to be a vinyl junkie.

Whether it was of the rock/jazz/rap/funk variety, the all-consuming quest to find that rare collector's platter filled a considerable part of my time and resources. I especially had a sweet spot for hardcore and punk records from the '70s and '80s, which inspired my collecting fetish in the first place. It is this very same obsession with hardcore records that drives the personal narrative behind Bob Suren's Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Records, released by the fearlessly independent Microcosm Publishing house. There are several dozen chapters/vignettes, each coinciding with a particular record, person, or incident that shaped Suren's obsession with those shiny vinyl objects of desire.

From a young hardcore fan growing up in 1980s Florida, this search inspires him to do a label, play in bands, and eventually open up a record store/distribution empire that—along the way—gains him lifelong friends, helps track down his musical heroes for reissues, invaluable life experiences, and, ultimately, a romantic partner. This all seems fine and dandy—and at times it's beautifully apropos—but without giving away any spoilers, Suren depicts in a brutally honest fashion the price we sometimes pay for our obsessions. Mine was the selling off of most of my collection to pay for some tangible needs like food/rent/school. Suren's crucible is a tad different, but he also comes to the realization that it's the music in the grooves that ultimately matters. Of course the vinyl and cardstock they're housed in are incredibly pleasing objects to hold and cherish, but the memories associated with the sounds are the true aesthetic essence.

Speaking as a reformed vinyl collector, the message in those hardcore records of yore is as potent as ever without having the actual physical object to spin. This doesn't take away from immensely enjoying Suren's accounts of first hearing life-changing documents by the Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, 7 Seconds, tales of traveling to Peru in order to secure licensing rights to the legendary Ataque Frontal 7", or exploring in minute detail largely forgotten Florida hardcore bands like the (personal favorite) gloriously named Gay Cowboys in Bondage.

Bob Suren singing for Murder-Suicide Pact in 2011.

Please pick this book up if you are at all interested in punk/hardcore, record collecting, and personal memoirs that describe a life moving to its own singular, atypical rhythm. The audio version of the book with a soundtrack featuring MDC, Minor Threat, Raw Power, The Meatmen, Ataque Frontal, and Rattus is coming soon!

Check out Suren on his upcoming US book tour from June 29 to July 22:

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