Late century dream

Exclusive: Preview a new book on the seminal grunge underground of the 80s and 90s

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p168 Lucy Lamode of Killer Pussy inside chicken wi
Lucy Lamode of Killer Pussy inside chicken wire cage at Mad Garden , 1981Neal "Doc" Holliday

"It's not why we're doing this / Why can't you fucking get it?" That's Mia Zapata from Seattle-based grunge band The Gits on boozed-up thrash anthem "Slaughter of Bruce", but it may as well stand as the official underground motto. The same scene that birthed Nirvana and Sub Pop was also home to a thriving, brawling fringe of DIY punks, garage bands and hardcore freaks who flourished in backroom bars, started punch-ups in university gig venues and tore apart more unconventional spaces like Mad Gardens in Pheonix, Arizona, a converted wrestling hall where bands performed in the ring.

Late Century Dream – Movements in the US indie music underground circumvents the usual Kurt Cobain angle in favour of a more expansive look at the distinct regional movements that birthed specific music scenes, styles and social ties, from the cop-baiting punk rock and weirdo skronk of Austin, Texas to the post-punk that emerged from art schools in Athens, Georgia.

Now that any bedroom producer can upload a demo to Soundcloud and can get signed within the month, it's almost quaint to look back on the 80s and 90s as a time people just jammed, shook hands, and got in a van to tour. At a time wearing a punk T-shirt could, and would, get you beaten up, reacting to a Middle America of Reagan values and The Cosby Show took guts and passion – maybe of the kind we don't see today; maybe not. Either way, it's hard not to look at the images from Late Century Dream and not feel the spit landing on your cheek, starting chords emerging from a cheap electric guitar, and hear the roar of a jumped-up teenage crowd that hasn't sounded the same ever since. 

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