Author Kevin Prested’s new book Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records is essential reading for anyone that has any interest in the history of punk rock. The book, published in paperback late this past January via Microcosm Publishing,, examines as the title states, the rise and fall of one of punk’s most influential record labels. It is a label that was home to greats such as Operation Ivy, Crimpshrine, and even none other than Green Day in its heyday. But as with all great things, it came to an end; an end that was obviously not the way that anyone wanted for a once great institution, but an end nonetheless. Now thanks to Prested, who is also a music journalist, audiences get a first-hand look at what led to the famed label’s beginning and eventual sad fall. Readers will especially enjoy this book primarily thanks to the presentation of the story. Prested doesn’t try to make his story another run-of-the-mill bio/history style presentation. Rather, it comes across more as a video documentary put into book form versus the other way around. That will be discussed shortly. Another aspect of the book that readers will appreciate is the history lesson provided by Prested. Audiences learn about not just the history of Lookout Records but of the bands that once called Lookout Records home. One more factor worth noting of Prested’s book that makes it so interesting is the inclusion of the occasional picture here and there as an added illustration of Lookout’s history. None of the photos are the standard publicity photos either. Rather, they are often times more candid shots of different bands and releases put out by Lookout. It’s a minor detail, yes. But it still adds its own interest to Prested’s book. The combination of those photos, the history presented by the story, and the overall structure of the story makes Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records a must read not just for those with a love of music history but especially for those with an interest of and love for punk and its roots.
Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records is a must read for anyone with a love for and interest in not just music history but also for the history of punk rock and its roots. The main reason that it proves itself such essential reading is its overall structure. The overall structure of Prested’s presentation is not just another run-of-the-mill bio or history piece. Rather what Prested has done here is taken the road less traveled. Instead of just being a long-winded read–unlike those bios and historical pieces–Prested has used his journalistic roots and crafted a piece that is presented more like the script for a televised documentary than a literary piece. The story and the quotes from Prested’s subjects (E.g. former Lookout employee Chris Applegren, Frank Portman (The Mister T Experience, The Bomb Bassets), Scott Conway (Screeching Weasel, Even in Blackouts), etc.) are clearly separated and even specifically labeled throughout each chapter. Speaking of the chapters, the book’s chapters are relatively short, ranging anywhere from three pages to five and maybe a little more. In general though, the chapters are relatively short. So readers won’t find themselves constantly asking when the chapters are going to end. On a directly related note, the historical reflections on Lookout’s history both on the part of Prested and his subjects are themselves so entertaining that even if the chapters were longer, readers still wouldn’t have to worry about the story dragging along. The story in whole is that well-written and structured. Considering this, it would be interesting to see if Prested would ever consider turning what is essentially a script into an actual visual presentation to complement his book. Needless to say it would be just as welcome among music lovers and punk fans as his book.
The overall structure of Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records is central to its success. The road taken by Prested in this book is the polar opposite of its much more well-known counterparts. In other words it isn’t just another of those long-winded pieces that relies more on facts and figures than actually engaging the reader. For this reason alone Prested is more than deserving of his share of applause. It is just one reason that Prested is deserving of credit in examining his new book, too. The history provided by the book makes Prested just as deserving of credit. The story presents not only the history of Lookout Records but also of the bands that once made Lookout one of the biggest names in the music industry before its eventual demise. Prested explains through the course of his story Lookout Records’ humble beginnings, its slowly building fame, which seemed to climax at the debut of Green Day’s hit 1994 record Dookie, and its not entirely surprising (and in turn sad) eventual fall. The thing is that as readers will note early on in the label’s history, there was some foreshadowing of what was to come for Lookout. The warning signs were there. They just didn’t seem to be entirely heeded. In regards to the history of the bands that called Lookout home, some readers will be surprised to learn that Green Day once called Lookout Records home as did punk icons Operation Ivy, Screeching Weasel, Pansy Division, and a number of others. Readers even get to hear from members of the noted bands as part of the label’s history in regards to their own experiences during their time on Lookout Records. The combination of the labels’ history and the history of the bands signed to the label together makes for quite the interesting read that true punk devotees will not want to put down. That coupled with the book’s overall structure makes it even more of a work that music lovers and punk lovers specifically will enjoy.
The structure of Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records coupled with the history of the label and its bands makes this book one that is well worth the read whether one is a punk devotee or a music lover in general. They are together only two parts of the whole that make it such an interesting read. Last of note in regards to the book’s enjoyment is its photos. While minor, they do play their own part in the book’s enjoyment. That is because the photos, much like the overall structure of the book, are not the standard prim and proper publicity photos that one might expect. Rather, the band pictures are candid shots of some of the bands that helped Lookout get its start and vice versa. There are also random pictures of some of the vinyls and cassettes that were distributed by Lookout throughout its life. Audiences will be interested in examining some of the pictures that Prested actually discusses in his book aspects of the albums such as their artwork. Readers, for example, will be interested to learn of the DIY approach taken in regards to the artwork of many of the bands’ albums. It wasn’t that spit-shined look of so many of today’s labels. That approach mirrors the overall approach of Lookout Records in whole in terms of signing and promoting bands. It makes even more interesting the fact that said approach coupled with so much dedication and hard work led to the rise of Lookout Records. At the same time, thinking about that in the same fashion, it is just as interesting to learn that that same approach also contributed to the label’s end. Again, that goes right back to the story at the heart of the book. It shows in the grand scheme of things why in fact the pictures included in this book are just as important to its overall story as the story itself and its structure. All three elements together show clearly why Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records is a must read for music lovers in general and for those more devoted to punk rock and its roots.
Punk Rock USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records is a must read for any music lover in general and for those whose loyalties are more linked to punk and its history. The structure of the book makes it easy to follow for audiences. It comes across more along the lines of a video documentary’s script than a standard, long-winded historical piece. The story that is presented within the book’s pages makes it even more interesting for readers. That is because the story focuses not only on the history of Lookout Records in regards to its rise and fall, but also to the history of the band’s that once called Lookout Records home. Both histories are balanced quite well throughout the course of the book with the end result being an overall story that will keep readers from wanting to put the book down at any point. The band photos and photos of albums and EPs released via Lookout are just as intriguing of an addition to the overall presentation. That is because in some cases, the photos are accompanied by stories of the DIY approach taken by Lookout’s employees to crafting the releases’ artwork as well as the DIY approach taken to promote its bands. It shows that Prested was really thinking about that aspect of the book. He didn’t want to just throw in some random photos here and there. He wanted them to play their own important part in the whole of his book. The understanding of that approach also helps readers understand its role later in the label’s life, proving yet again the importance of the included photos even as minor of an element as they may seem. The combination of all three elements together proves once and for all why Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records is a book that is a must read for music lovers and more specifically punk loyalists alike. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online via Microcosm Publishing’s online store at http://microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/books/5160/. More information on this and other titles available from Microcosm Publishing is available online at:
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