Book Review: Smash!: Green Day, The Offspring, Bad Religion, NOFX and the ’90s Punk Explosion by Ian Winwood

Publisher: Da Capo Press
Format: Audiobook
Release Date: November 20th, 2018

Rating: 5/5 Stars

If you are a Millennial, that generation born between 1981 and 1996, or a younger Gen Xer, you’ll know the names and bands mentioned in this book. You know, that music my parents said wouldn’t last like THEIR favourite bands had lasted and who would know who they even were twenty years from now?

(I have had more recent discussions with my dad about ‘those bands I like’ such as Green Day and My Chemical Romance and The Offspring and more and his face when I told him yes, some are still going, yes, they’re still performing and releasing new music, and yes that means they’ve matched the timeframe of many of HIS favourite musicians and bands…his expression can basically be described as ‘fair play’.)

I admit, every time I TRY and look up new alternative music or even manage to find a younger person and ask them, the names that come up are the same names as fifteen years ago. Hell, someone please feel free to correct me, but to my ears it really does seem as if kids are listening to the same punk music we were.

For me, as someone who grew up on a mix of 70s and 80s music, and who slowly started picking out albums from their older brothers’ collections, this was a truly fascinating listen. Some of the bands were ones my brothers liked – Bad Religion – and others were ones I came across as a teen, because friends were into them or because they were in Kerrang! or I just heard their music and liked it. But by then, these bands were established; they had been around for over a decade. My exposure to Green Day started properly with American Idiot, and I backtracked from there. The Offspring’s Keep ‘Em Separated and Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) were tracks I saw first as music videos. NOFX were the band who were on all the punk compilation albums I picked up, who – along with Green Day – repeatedly said Fuck Bush in any way they could.

But this biography of various bands really helps shine a light on their origins, and the overall punk explosion in the early 90s, the same one that carried through until the mid-2000s, with many of the ‘original’ musicians still around. It’s this sort of insight that really solidifies the fact these bands were all moving about the same space and covers a lot of gaps from my own knowledge.

It’s extremely worth it for the experience and knowledge Ian Winwood brings to it, with a few quotes said directly to him, rather than repeated second-hand. There were anecdotes about the bands only the most diehard fans might be aware of, and details about their backgrounds, environments, and the general punk scene at the time, as well as how it had changed from the 70s era punk to the punk rock and punk pop that emerged in the 90s.

Definitely a worthwhile read if you were into this era of punk, and hopefully we’ll see more books covering that period and later in music in the not-too-distant future.

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