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Fury’s Hour: A (Sort-of) Punk Manifesto

by Warren Kinsella

The upside of music is its unique power to frame essential moments of a life. The downside, of course, is that these moments – unlike the capsulated eternities of music itself – cannot survive well the effacing friction of time. In Fury’s Hour, Warren Kinsella (lawyer, political consultant, and columnist) concedes from the outset the improbability of a balding, conventionally successful father in his mid-forties with a nice house in a pleasant neighborhood and a mortgage, playing the role of advocate and historian to the fledgling British and North American punk scene of the late 1970s.

The reader may wish that Kinsella had heeded his own counsel. He begins promisingly, with a hilarious chronicle of his own experience as a fan and player in a punk band in Alberta. It was a heady time. The energy! The rawness! The snarling outrage! The stiff middle finger aimed at … well … everything! “It isn’t about being young. It’s about the spirit of rebellion,” he writes breathlessly.

In fact, as Kinsella sourly points out, bands routinely disassociated themselves from the idea that there was any serious political rebellion involved. Punk was all about “Doing It Yourself!” Except that seminal punk bands like the Ramones and the Clash signed huge record deals with major corporate labels in a heartbeat. (Apparently the DIY philosophy likewise does not extend to Kinsella’s association with publishing giant Random House.)

Kinsella’s tone of innocence betrayed might have worked better had he a sense of humour, some modesty, and a willingness to explore his own prejudices and idealistic expectations. Unfortunately, he comes across like a humourless windbag lecturing a hall of bored undergraduates. “THE WORLD NEEDS CHANGING,” he hectors in a closing line. “AND YOU CAN CHANGE IT!” The only changing readers of this book are likely to be doing is the baby’s diapers.