Having read Rollins’ Get In the Van , I was looking forward to a history that focused on the early years of Black Flag. Spray Paint the Walls came through in those regards. But there was something incongruent about the early chapters. As much as I wanted to know about Keith, Dez, and Chavo, it was uninteresting and slow-paced – not a fitting introduction for a coffee-fueled hardcore band. It read like a textbook. Given the personal nature of Get in the Van, it had a lot to live up to. I enjoyed the chapter about their show at a park picnic so much that I read it twice, but found myself speeding through the first half of the book with little interest.
The intensity increases half way through. It’s such a change that it seems like a different author is writing it - possibly the result of the use of previously published information. Once the Dez era starts, though, the focus falls more on the band. The conflict both with the authorities and within the band make for an engaging history. Dukowski’s influence as a musician, stage presence, and manager was a surprise. Kira had lots of personal passages. But there was an absence of new input from most band members. The facts and figures were presented, but none of the emotion of the moment was there. Such a volatile group should have had an explosive account.
If nothing else, it was a good compilation and a timely publication, with Keith Morris’ band “OFF!” gaining popularity, and Black Flag worship taking hold amongst another generation. I would like to have read more about the extended band “family.” Black Flag had so many offshoots and related bands that I think it really could have demonstrated the influence and community of the music. I also wonder if the British author’s distance from the US may have created a certain noticeable distance from the information. Everything from his description of Hermosa Beach to his incorrectly referring to the Misfits as a California band seemed a bit phony. But I suppose that all of the insiders are probably pretty sick of talking about the same thing after all of these years, so maybe it takes an author from another country to objectively document such an intense bunch of people.