Thursday, November 03, 2022

Be Your Own Backing Band by Liz Prince

Liz Prince really loves punk. This book is a love letter to the punk she loves, and it's fun and conversational and personal and all kinds of good things.

But my first reaction was somewhere in between "Wow, I am old because my definition of 'punk' is ten to twenty years older than Prince's" and "I have no idea who any of her favorite bands are" and "Hey, wait, is this pop-punk? Do we count that as real punk?"

I was never a hardcore guy, but I grew up in the '80s and had a bunch of friends who were real hardcore guys - Black Flag, Bad Brains, Misfits, that kind of thing. (And sometimes metal guys, too - the kind of guys who just liked stuff loud and obnoxious and didn't mind as much what kind.) So my image of "punk" is either historical - Ramones, Sex Pistols, early Clash - or that '80s boiled-down-to-the-essence scene.

Prince went to a lot of shows, and her comics here originally appeared in a punk magazine and on a punk website. I am in no way trying to claim I'm more punk than she is - I think what I'm saying is that punk mutated and changed so much over the years that pretty much anyone who says they're a punk can be equally right, even if they're into totally different things.

I haven't read any of Prince's comics in a few years - and this book is about fix years old itself - but I was really impressed with both her memoir Tomboy and her diary comics in Look Back and Laugh about a decade ago. So when I saw she had a book about punk, I think my reaction was something like "Hey! I like punk, too," only to find out (as just explained) that what she means by punk is not the same as what I expected.

Anyway, this particular book is called Be Your Own Backing Band. It's not long - just about seventy pages - but the comics pages are full of words, since Prince loves this stuff and wants to cram in as many details (song lyrics! names of bands! road-trip stories! set lists!) as she possibly can. And that's the glory of loving music - of loving any kind of artistic expression: that you want to share it with other people and loudly say, "Hey! This is really cool and I hope you love it as much as I do."

I know basically none of the bands she mentions. Most of them because they're fairly small or local, some of them because they're the favorites of someone who grew up a decade later than me somewhere else. Oh, she does mention Green Day a few times - I do know who they are, and have heard their stuff, but never owned anything by them. (My pop-music loves all tend much more smart-ass: They Might Be Giants, Oingo Boingo, Elvis Costello, Fountains of Wayne.)

But this is a cool, energetic, utterly DIY book by one creator who really loves this kind of music, has been to a lot of shows (and even, I think, dated some musicians, if that makes any of you more interested), and pours out that enthusiasm and do-it-your-way attitude right onto the page. And that is totally punk, no matter what your definition is.

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