Perfect Youth a loving ode to punk pioneers
Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk
By Sam Sutherland. ECW Press. 368 pp, softcover
For those that weren’t there, here’s all you need to know about the dawn of Canuck punk rock: even though scenes were incubating across the country, there were really only two that mattered. If you were part of one of them—namely, Vancouver’s—you had no problem agreeing that the other one (Toronto’s) sucked.
At least that was the battle cry back in the day on the West Coast. As Nick Jones of Lotusland’s much-loved Pointed Sticks notes in Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk, Toronto bands “never had any fucking sense of humour. They took themselves so seriously all the time.”
To his immense credit, former Exclaim assistant editor Sam Sutherland doesn’t take sides in his loving and passionate ode to the fast-and-loud pioneers of Canadian punk. If one thing comes through in Perfect Youth, it’s that the Toronto-based journalist has as much respect for the Left Coast’s D.O.A. and Subhumans as he does for Centre of the Universe icons Teenage Head and the Diodes. He also builds a strong case that Canadian punk didn’t explode exclusively in Toronto and Vancouver. Chapters are devoted to Winnipeg (which spawned Personality Crisis), Edmonton (SNFU), and Victoria (Dayglo Abortions, NoMeansNo), as well as Calgary, Ottawa, and the East Coast (a bunch of bands you’ve never heard of and probably won’t care about).
Those with a Nardwuar the Human Serviette–like knowledge of Canuck punk will find plenty to quibble with here. Recounting the Modernettes recording at Little Mountain Sound with then-fledging producer Bob Rock (Mötley Crüe, Metallica), John “Buck Cherry” Armstrong is quoted as saying: “We would sit around every night and see if we got the phone call. If Aerosmith or AC/DC fucked off early, we would get the rest of the night.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but those acts wouldn’t start recording in Vancouver until a half-decade later, in the late ’80s.
Elsewhere, when delving into the history of Personality Crisis, Sutherland interviews guitarist Richard Duguay, stating the former Winnipegger has lived in Southern California since the band’s breakup. Vancouverites, however, might recall that Duguay was mostly based in Lotusland from the late ’80s to the mid-2000s, playing in acts like TT Racer and John Ford.
Such oversights, however, hardly ruin Perfect Youth, which should be mandatory reading for anyone who thinks Sum 41 invented Canadian punk. Sutherland unearths some fascinating trivia here. Who cares if he’s convinced that Teenage Head—not D.O.A.—was the hardest-working punk band of its era, or that the Viletones were Canuck visionaries, as opposed to something resembling a Great White North version of SCTV’s the Queen Haters. For every such transgression, you get a tidbit like the fact that the Pointed Sticks’ Jones produced the Dayglo Abortions debut, Out of the Womb. Or that drummer Zippy Pinhead (the Dils) is the son of the former head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Christian Association. Nardwuar would be seriously impressed.