Touch and Go Collection Reviewed

In many ways, Touch and Go represents the uber-fanzine of an era in which punk’s zero hour “salad days,” when being incendiary, outré, and unconventional mattered most, melted into brooding, boiling angst and buzzed boy clone hardcore. In this scene, ferocity and fierceness were often more mired in alleged wounds than wit. By the mid-1980s, the scene indulged in self-referential sprees, like an endless circus of barking and biting about what is, or isn’t, overly new wavey, wimpy, poppy, punk, or hardcore. If music lacked a backbone forged in magma and proper virulence, it was often doomed to the dust bin by people barely old enough to drink alcohol. Touch and Go mostly set a different tone, bridged styles, and sorted through the clutter, all the time finding a way to ignite the wary, disparate, and dispossessed that walked the nervous miles in-between big cities.

This compendium is a raw, earthy gem that follows the lead of Search and Destroyand Sniffin Glue by reproducing the entire set en masse, like a bible of Midwest (later venturing to Washington DC) self-made media that makes today’s Internet world seem feeble and malnourished. Anchored by the invectives and insight of Meatmen puppet master Tesco Vee and his partner in crime Dave Stimson, the reader can ride along the Xerox highway as the mag mutates from a small-time lover of Brit punk and blatant Michigan localism into a crucible of emerging international hardcore, when the mag became a true epicenter, forging links between regions, bands, and fans. To that end, welcome the horde: Minor Threat, Negative Approach, Misfits, Black Flag and many others.

Yet, many purists may be surprised by their ska coverage, the positive coverage meted out to the Feelies, U2, and even Big Country, and equally shocked by the savage review penned about the early Big Boys and Dicks. This proves the magazine wasn’t unified or autocratic — some one-way only, cocooned, spout the party-line and group-think voice of the times. It was a truly grassroots, DIY, democratic venture; the irreverent writers sometimes wrestle with each other’s perspectives, fetishes, and tastebuds. Another other important aspect is the magazine’s much-needed spotlight on bands that have sunk beneath the radar of contemporary punk history, like Sado-nation (Portland) and the overlooked Hates (“No Talk in the Eighties” from 1979) from Houston, whose label artwork and music reviews are captured here aplenty, which surprises Christian Arnheiter, the singer that has stoked the band for thirty years.

In addition, several keen introductions, interviews, and anecdotes are supplied by the likes of Henry Rollins, Corey Rusk (Necros, Touch and Go Records), Steve Miller (the singer of the Fix), who also edited the volume, and Ian MacKaye, whose interview with Tesco Vee provides reference points for a culture that rose up from the post-hippie scrap heap to forge a truly inter-connected community of misfits, enraged youth, adult miscreants, and budding art provocateurs. The aesthetic is all ragtag– cut and paste, stolen and hijacked art, fuzzy typing that has been touched up and cleaned, and handwritten hilarity that reminds us that punk meant stirring up culture from below, creating rippling networks, storing and amassing history in the making, and finding an authentic voice that ran counter to, alongside, and hopefully subverted corporate America’s deluge. More bonus features include an array of spot-on punk flyers torn from the times of the zine, which alone makes it worthy of this blog.

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