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Book-ish: Live... Suburbia

The best reads that have landed on our desk this week

Written by . Published on September 27th 2011.

Book-ish: Live... Suburbia

CRASH landing this Autumn, tearing the space-time continuum in two, this smoking telephone box, flying Delorean artefact is a much-welcomed blast from the past to brighten up the approaching seasonal shift, shortening day blues. Live... Suburbia is Anthony Pappalardo and Max G. Morton’s ode to ‘coming of age’ in a ’70s and ’80’s America. Decades synoynmous with the flourishing and fledgling heavy metal and hardcore punk scenes, video games, skate boarding, bmx, florescent colour everything. Demonstrating a pre-Internet allegiance to a cult known only as defiance, when the young had to earn their stripes, going over the edge in forging a path through the yet unchartered ‘alternative’ landscapes, armed with nothing but their wits, a Chinese whispered map, naive youthful sleuth detection and a lot of blind luck. 

Live...Suburbia! By Anthony Pappalardo and Max G Morton, published by powerHouse Books.Live...Suburbia! By Anthony Pappalardo and Max G Morton, published by powerHouse Books.

In the books introduction, The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn sheds light on some teen’s need and perhaps sums up the phenomenon so wholeheartedly embraced: "Something was out there, and even if I couldn't put my finger on it. I wanted a piece of it." Partly an age thing and largely an intoxicating, ever-beckoning culture thing, I’m sure everybody has their own story of self-discovery they can look back upon fondly. Untamed wolf cubs running wild, susceptible and impressionable, the inscribed backpack, the heavly biro’ed school book, the poorly executed and spelt graffiti, the calling cards and signifiers. Anything to scream out you were different to all those who had chosen to stay on the well-beaten track or those who too had avoided it all together.

It is in these pages that Pappalardo and Morton serve as peddlers of the most potent of drugs: nostalgia. Recounting the overlooked poetry of album covers, track listings, and lyric sheets, celebrating the sidewalks, the record stores, flashing neon lights, seeking solace in the salvation of black plastic and silver screens, bubblegum pop sugar rush. Young alchemists adding and subtracting very specific elements in the name of discovery, studying the result until the desired compound is realised, refined and stable enough to allow for repeated use. Adolescence lessons, readily submitting to the naive unknown overdoses and abysses in order to bring back the rare and foreign artefacts from the other side, to be able to repeatedly blow one’s mind night after night within the four walls of the bedroom sanctuary and suburban sprawl.

Papalardos’ stories are based in this dimension and reality, possessing hindsight’s wit and all knowing ‘in retrospect’, a collector and curator, recounting events in a way that the dedicated will recognise. A catalogue of stories re-sewn stitch by stitch comprised of familiar enough details that it could be your life, informing and entertaining whilst ringing with pleasures pangs of “that’s so true.” Morton’s stories glow the same oozing nuclear green of b-movie’s I was a teenage werewolf from interzone dimension twenty three, compiling a detailed list of the cast and characters comprising the teenage wasteland, a faith in the void, the girls the drugs the music the fights the highs the lows, the real lows, he has walked those street’s gutters and is wiser for the journey, if not wearier. 

Although I can not even begin to fathom these two men’s plight (or a whole generations for that matter) it is rewarding to sift through their findings whilst comparing them to my own memories of heavy metal parking lots, waxed curbs, saved lunch money shopping sprees, music magazines, older girls with dyed green hair and immaculate music tastes, vhs of hours and hours of late night MTV, as well as the all too common case of over supportive and over zealous, yet totally out of touch parents, not quite getting it but trying non the less, blocked memory incidents of unfortunate attire and apparel bestowed with beaming faces only to be met with grimace. And so I understand it is these stories that should be cherished, looking for and finding the magic in the details, along with the devil.

And it is these shared rights of passage that make Live...Suburbia a success, universal unashamed cool confessions from the edge, the acknowledgment and celebration of the burden of youth. The graduation through the ranks from one form of distraction/entertainment to the next. The slow dedication that ensues as an individual begins to define and forge oneself, from mere hobby or pursuit to full-blown obsession then simply to whom one is. From cartoons, to video games, to skateboards, to band T-shirts, live shows, vinyl, record labels, to inebriants, to the opposite sex or some such other order depending on your disposition. This is not just a collective photo album, but the documented testing of the waters to determine just who we are and how we got here.


Photograph by Kate Berry

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