Dave Dictor – MDC: Memoir from a Damaged Civilisation (Stories of Punk, Fear, and Redemption) (Manic D Press)

Squats, cops and nazi skinheads – Memoir is part band-biog, and part collection of Dave’s Maximum Rocknroll columns, recounting anecdotes of one of the most abrasive anarcho-thrash bands to have emerged from the west coast US scene in the early 1980s.

Dave tells of his early punk days fronting the Stains as part of the vibrant Austin, Texas, scene and the west coast’s magnetic pull that put them alongside the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag et al, and from where they unleashed their furious first album – the anarcho-thrash classic Millions of Dead Cops.

San Francisco in 1981/1982 was truly a land to behold,” says Dave, “a countercultural oasis attracting youth of all stripes to its bounty; teenage runaways, punk rockers, industrial art types, college art types, and just young people everywhere we turned.”

One of MDC’s triumphs was that they took fast, aggressive anarchopunk to places that hadn’t experienced it before. The reaction of a crowd in Barcelona sums it up: “They were frozen in space trying to make sense of a style of music they weren’t used to,” Dave says. “The next night we played again; it looked like exactly the same crowd. Everyone was in place, standing, waiting, but this time from the very first note to the last they went absolutely apeshit bonkers, like we were returning conquerors.”

MDC suffered a shifting line-up, and some albums suffered. And Dave isn’t shy of talking about his personal disintegration into drug addiction and how he bizarrely wound up living in Portland, hanging with Poison Idea’s Pig Champion and making a living by dealing amphetamines. His path to redemption is slow and fraught with pain, but Dave, and MDC survive.

MDC’s recent tours have given back these ferocious and funsters the credit they deserve and Memoir shows how they spurned the mainstream to evolve their own music and develop their own voices. If the book lacks anything, it’s a couple more drafts to flesh out the band’s story even further and to give it more coherence in the tale of one of anarchopunk’s most significant and influential bands.

Available through Active Distribution

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