Books: Eric Davidson's "We Never Learn"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Around 2001, the music press started going wild about bands like the Strokes, the White Stripes and the Hives, vanguards of the alleged garage-rock revival that was unfolding in music's mainstream. These bands, we were told, lived for dusty blues records, hillbilly hollers and the raunchy rock 'n' roll of the '50s and '60s.

Eric Davidson found the historical perspective somewhat lacking.

"It's a minor thing, and it's kind of a record collector thing, but there was definitely this scene all through the '90s that just was kind of forgotten about when they decided to write about some of the bands that actually had some hits, like the Hives and the White Stripes," said Davidson, the Brooklyn-based music journalist and singer for Columbus' mostly defunct New Bomb Turks.

In his new book "We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001," Davidson tells the tale of the many underground punk acts that eschewed the genre's self-serious demeanor for a fixation on the fast, trashy and fun.

Bands like The Gories, the Oblivians and the Supersuckers were a direct influence on the garage revivalists that later hit it big.

For the purposes of canonization, Davidson dubbed the movement "gunk punk" and set about chronicling as many of the acts as possible. He spent more than two years recalling his own memories and dredging up musicians' stories.

"I tried to frame other bands' experiences with my own as a kind of jumping-off point in the conversations," Davidson said. "Most of the people I interviewed kind of trusted me for that. I actually did a lot of this stuff. I wasn't just a rock critic."

Though the book is peppered with tales of his time with Turks, Davidson's goal was not to write a memoir. Anything he or his editor deemed too personal got cut. And while he writes with an unapologetic Ohio slant, he did significantly scale back his recollection of the former High Street rock clubs.

He may read some of that redacted spiel during an appearance Friday at the Wexner Center, where he'll also take questions and screen clips of old performances from gunk punk's heyday. An after-party at Cafe Bourbon Street will follow.

Meet him:

9 p.m. Friday, July 9

Wexner Center for the Arts, Campus

Party after:

11 p.m. Friday, July 9

Cafe Bourbon Street, Campus