The nasty, nasty punk aesthetic gets an incongruously attractive presentation in Russ Bestley and Alex Ogg’s new book The Art of Punk. The writers, given to waxing academic about a bunch of righteous screaming and guitar punishing, do their best work as interviewers of such scene-defining visual artists as Mick Farren of The Deviants, John Holmstrom of Punk magazine, Ramones crony Arturo Vega, and Jamie Reed, whose work for The Sex Pistols solidified the look of punk like no other. Bestley and Ogg are also ace image compilers, largely striding past the most well known album covers, flyers, ’zines, and posters to present a richer picture of the punk era from those primordial days when the MC5 first crawled out of the muck to the more recent days of Germ Attak and The Gaggers. While our faves The Clash, The Damned, The Ramones, etc. are all represented, The Art of Punk most fascinates when flying internationally to show how punk imagery manifested in Australia and New Zealand, where striking line drawings were prominent, and Germany, where Nazi symbolism was still disturbingly in play. Bestley and Ogg certainly don’t shy from the most offensive images punk had to offer, but for better or worse, that stuff is a very real part of the genre’s long history of rankling the masses. The Art of Punk’s inclusiveness makes it as essential a representation of the genre’s look as Leave Home or Another Music in a Different Kitchen represent its sound.
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